How we’re fixing the Internet for kids.
And is it even broken to begin with?
November 14, 2023
Ask any parent of a child age 6 and up, and they’ll tell you. When it comes to letting kids online, accessing the Internet using the tools provided by “Big tech” is tricky. As long as you (the parent) are paying attention, your kids are using it to access a wealth of information and knowledge, create cool things, learn about the world, and connect with friends and family. But lose focus for a moment and you’ve lost them to addictive games with little educational value, Youtube blackholes, and sometimes worse.
The Internet can be a fantastic place for learning and discovery for young kids, but it does feel like you’re having them walk a tightrope of positive content, where it is easy for them to fall into a dark internet abyss on either side. All of this to say that at URSOR we think the Internet experience for kids is broken, and here’s what we think some of the problems are.
Problem 1 - Access to quality content
Kids today access and consume information on the Internet via two primary channels. Video (Youtube, Netflix, etc...) and Voice (Alexa, Google, etc...). Our own research shows that roughly 1 in 5 households in the US have an operational smart assistant in their homes, and that a reported 140 million families are signed up to Youtube Kids. Now let's take video as an example; we know that 10 out of 10 parents will have not so pleasant stories about leaving their kids in front of an iPad or smartphone, watching a carefully selected educational and interesting video, only to find them moments later binging on videos of kinder-egg toy openings or some other form of mind boggling garbage.
Sadly, with all of big tech’s good intentions, this is by design. Their products are driven by algorithms that were not built to serve children the best content, but stuff which bumps up their engagement metrics.
Problem 2 - Data ownership and privacy
As the saying goes - “If a product is free, you are the product”. The data our kids produce from birth is logged and used by companies we don’t always know, for questionable purposes, hidden behind pages upon pages of terms and conditions, and sold and resold without our knowledge or consent.
The global structure of data ownership is so complex and convoluted that few know what is actually happening to the data us and our kids produce, and the few tools available to manage the data privacy of our families online are so technical and inaccessible that very few of us even bother to use them.
We’ve shortlisted the top 10 kids safety tools available to parents, which combined with good tech habits at home can make a difference! However,none of them are easy to implement, and each of the 10 services available seem to provide a specific fix for just one part of the problem.
In short, big tech treats kids like a product, and the tools available to protect them against this are very hard to understand, let alone to use.
In collaboration with our community of parents, educators, designers and technologists, we want to build an internet discovery tool that can help solve the above problem, or at least begin to, and we’ve summarised below where URSOR is today. We would love some feedback, and to know if you think we’re doing something you’ll find of value.
Today, we’re building URSOR to be the following:
1.A browser and search engine built for kids
- URSOR will be a browser, designed to live on the platforms your kids use to access the Internet.
- The user experience will be designed for thoughtful content discovery and curation, not for binging.
- It will deliver kids daily quality links, on the topics you want them to learn and care about.
- It will give families and educators a way to add and curate additional links for the community to share.
2. A community curated whitelist for now and the future
- The bigger our user base gets, the more “parent curated links” we gather.
- Parents can choose to give their kids access to links curated by community members they trust.
- The “whitelist” will always be community curated, and pass on from one generation to the next.
- We will collectively curate the Internet, leaving it a more coherent place than how we found it.
3. A safety and privacy first service
- No ads from URSOR. Ever. We’re here to serve you, not brands that want to sell you things.
- No tracking. Every subscription could come with a VPN that cloaks your IP as your kids browse.
- Parents will be in control of everything their kids can see and when they see it.
- The data you produce will always be yours. We will make it easy to download and delete.
We’re working to build something we think humanity needs, but we can’t do it alone. We want to hear from as many of you as possible, so we can build the best possible service for the most of us.
If you’d like to help, sign-up to our Alpha program and let us know what you think!