An Israeli father whose 10-year-old daughter wanted a Facebook account is the creator of Nipagesh (Let’s Meet), a safe social network for children that will also be available outside Israel under the name NetoKids.
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Nipagesh creator Itay Eshet told ISRAEL21c website that some 150 Israeli schools had already signed up to use the free network and the education ministry was cooperating with the project. Children can't sign up individually.
The network caters to three types of users: teachers, parents and the children themselves. Teachers use it to distribute assignments and announcements, moderate discussions and collaborate with other schools on educational projects.
“Since at that age kids’ lives are centered around school, we decided to give them a platform to connect with other kids with similar interests, share ideas and chats and connect to school as well,” Eshet said.
He is currently running a crowd-funding campaign on Headstart to raise the 75,000 shekels ($22,000) necessary to keep the service free in Israel.
“We are doing something unique; our business model is not based on advertising. So we ask parents to support us if they think what we are doing is for a good purpose,” Eshet said.
The staff of six that runs Nipagesh work out of an office in Hadera. “This is more than a full-time job for me,” says Eshet, a veteran of high-tech and the space industry in Israel.
“We also want to create an application for kids as an alternative to social apps such as WhatsApp, which has an age limit of 16. Parents have no control over mobile phones. They don’t know what groups their kids are in, who are the members of those groups. So we want to bring a more suitable alternative to the chatting aspect of social media and prepare the kids for using social networking correctly when they’re older.”
Parents receive alerts when their children post comments and photos and know with whom they are chatting, though they are unable to read private messages. Both adults and kids can alert administrators to bullying or inappropriate language on the network.
Three Israeli and three South American Jewish schools participated in a Nipagesh pilot program this year, according to Moty Kanias director of the Jewish Agency’s School Twinning Network. The project will expand to 10 schools in each of Israel and South America next year.
“We hope to connect Jewish kids from around the world on a daily basis through Itay’s network,” Kanias told ISRAEL21c. “We chose Nipagesh after researching all the possibilities. It has the signature of the Education Ministry, and it really serves our needs."