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Trust, but verify. That old Ronald Reagan policy toward Russian nuclear arms treaties is similar to the policy many parents would prefer when it comes to monitoring their kids’ use of online games. Chicago-based Media Chaperone has raised $1 million to finance its Facebook app that will help parents do just that.
If the company can provide useful information about kids’ activities to parents, those parents are probably willing to pay for it. And that could potentially open up a big market for startups such as Media Chaperone.
The company has created a free Facebook app for parents called Piggyback. It supplies parents with intelligence about what their children are doing online, along with parental controls and protection. With Piggyback, parents can find out in real-time how their children are navigating the web from within online games, social networks, and virtual worlds.
Here’s how it works. When a parent clicks on a Piggyback app, Media Chaperone creates a “family identity,” pairing the tween’s and parents’ online identities in a secure and anonymous way. Parents can visit Piggyback from their Facebook Profile to see any safety alerts and notifications of the child’s progress in games. If the child triggers an achievement or reward in a game, the parent will know about it. Parents can also reward the child with virtual goods.
Early stage investor Leo Capital led the financing. Randy Rissman, managing director of Leo Capital and founder of toy company Tiger Electronics, will join Media Chaperone’s board. The app is an acknowledgment that tweens, or kids from eight to 12, are spending more time online, Rissman said. Media Chaperone helps parents stay in touch with those kids online.
Children under 14 are not allowed on Facebook. But they create their own accounts anyway or use their parents’ accounts to play games. Research shows that the 20 million tweens in the U.S. influence $150 billion in parental spending each year. But money spent online is often a mystery to parents. Parents can use the app on Facebook as a window into the various online games that the children play.
Piggyback has already been integrated into several online games and virtual worlds, including Whyville.net, Planet Cazmo, Woozworld, Everloop and Webosaurs. The company was founded in 2009.
To date, the company has raised $1.25 million. Hyde Park Angels, a Chicago-based angel investor network, also participated in the round. Media Chaperone has six employees. Rivals include Safety Web and Social Shield. But those aren’t exclusively focused on the tween market.
Founders include chief executive Ed Lewis (pictured), a father of two. He’s a serial entrepreneur and a former executive at Motorola. Dave Shemenski is co-founder and chief technology officer and a former developer architect at Orbitz.