London, 3rd May 2016: After the shock of finding her own 8-year old daughter in an online chatroom, Clare Vincent – Berkshire mother, businesswoman and former board member of BBC Worldwide Sales & Distribution – spotted a gap in the market for a safe online environment for pre-teens. She came up with the idea for www.totallytween.co.uk, a safe place for kids to interact, share, learn and have fun. Teaming up with her friend Gina Walter, a mother of three and a former London Stock Exchange marketing exec, they carried out painstaking research into online safety over an 18-month period and launched TotallyTween in March 2015.
Despite an overwhelmingly positive response from parents, as well as content providers from the worlds of TV, film, music, publishing, sport and education, the digital platform will log off in June 2016 in order to reconsider its future, after being forced out of the market by the social media giants – despite the fact that the official age for such social media platforms is 13 plus. After seeking investment to grow TotallyTween, the common remark is “the competitive challenge is significant. Whether or not the major social media players are appropriate for under 13s, they won’t give up this audience easily and have huge funds to address it.” Clare Vincent and Gina Walter beg the question, “how can this be morally right?”
“We just wanted to give the 2.5 million girl Tweens in the UK a safe place to be online, to protect them from the potential dangers of the worldwide web, and to allow them to hang onto their childhood just that little bit longer. It was never our vision to try to compete with the major social networking sites, but that is unfortunately what we are faced with.”
With increasing media reports on the dangers of social media: online bullying, grooming and a rise in mental health issues amongst children in the UK, TotallyTween gained the support of respected education leader Clare Fletcher, who is an accredited OFSTED inspector and Headteacher of two Norfolk primary schools. Fletcher teamed up with TotallyTween to highlight the growing danger social media poses to children, and to initiate a call to action for parents to participate in a survey to prove just how active children are on these platforms. “Who would have imagined children would be more at risk and less safe in their own homes on their phones and tablets, than they might be on the street? I think we really need to help parents understand the potential problems as the repercussions for young people can be far-reaching and long term” comments Clare Fletcher.
During December 2015 a further survey amongst 175 parents, whose children ranged in age from 8 to 12, provided a stark illustration of the differences between parents’ and children’s perceptions of social media. The latter survey confirmed that 86% of the children used social media, despite them being under the recommended user threshold of 13. Approximately half of parents are not clear about age restrictions on popular websites and apps. Of three leading sites identified in the survey, between 43% and 53% of parents interviewed did not know the correct age threshold, or gave an incorrect answer. Over 60% of under 13s are setting up their own accounts on sites such as Instagram and SnapChat. Only 4% of parents feel that social media is wholly positive. 48% of parents would definitely turn social media off for their children until they are older, with a further 37% considering doing so.
Clare Vincent & Gina Walter said “It’s worrying that social media sites state in their privacy policies that their sites are for 13 and overs, yet we know our audience of 8-12 year olds are hooked and are using them daily, and this is happening right under our very noses. Who are these companies answerable to, and why are they allowed to have so much influence and power over our children?”
NOTES TO EDITORS:
Totally Tween Ltd is the company behind www.totallytween.co.uk a digital platform with a potential audience of 2.5 million girl Tweens. Its founders are Berkshire-based businesswomen and parents, Clare Vincent, a former board member of BBC Worldwide Sales & Distribution and Gina Walter, a former London Stock Exchange marketing executive. The platform is a safe, secure online environment for pre-teens to discover, discuss and share and is designed with direct input from a team of tweens.
Contact: Clare Vincent 07915 607775