ethosU: Social media site gives parents ability to shape kids' online image starting in kindergarten
LAURA LAYDEN - Scripps Howard News Service
12:46 PM, Nov 6, 2013
Think of it as LinkedIn for kids.
A new website, ethosU.com, is for kids from kindergarten on up. It's a reputation-building site, designed to help parents build positive profiles of their children online.
The social networking site is a partnership between a Naples, Fla., entrepreneur and a University of Florida professor who developed the technology behind it, which includes the ethosU Reputation Quotient, or eRQ.
The higher the eRQ, the better for the student -- the sky is the limit, there's no cap.
EthosU is like LinkedIn because it helps users build a personal brand, yet it's more interactive and fun. Students can use it to help each other with homework, or to connect and chat with others who share the same interests. There will be topics and news feed pages to spur conversation.
"Right now, there is no other reputation management-focused network that exists, especially for young people, beginning in kindergarten," said Paul Evans, 27, a North Naples resident and founder-CEO of ethosU LLC.
"What we are doing is giving young people the ability to begin a proactive approach to creating an online image," he said. "We are also educating them about doing it properly and how important it is to have one."
In choosing the name of the network, the founders picked Ethos, a Greek phrase representing "character," to reflect the company's mission of creating a morally focused, character-driven network. The "U" represents the academic focus.
"I don't see anyone doing the same thing that we are doing right now. It has high potential. It will grow exponentially," said ethosU co-founder and president My Thai, the professor who developed the site's patent-pending technology.
The security technology behind the site, licensed through the University of Florida, reviews posts to make sure they're appropriate, suggesting changes when they aren't, and it blocks unwanted viewers.
The site's built-in metrics determine the reputation quotient of students based on their positive actions, from sharing personal achievements to helping others on the site. A student can get a thumbs-up for answering another's question about homework, which can then help build a better reputation.
As an associate professor in University of Florida's computer, information science and engineering department, Thai has seen too many students scramble to close their Facebook accounts before they hunt for jobs.
For years, college students have posted nonsensical rants and questionable photos of themselves on social media sites, without a second thought. Unknowingly, they've created a digital shadow online that could haunt them for the rest of their lives, even when they cancel their accounts, Thai said.
"If someone really wants your information, they can still get it," she warns.
With ethosU, parents can get involved early on to help their children develop profiles that can be built upon through high school and college, and later be searched by college recruiters and potential employers, Thai said.
Nearly 92 percent of employers use social media to screen potential employees, getting their first impressions from what they find on the web, founder Evans noted. The profiles built through ethosU become digital scrapbooks, then digital resumes, he said.
On the profile pages, users can enter information about education, work experience, project experience, clubs, groups, and honors and awards.
The site can help bridge the technology gap between parents and their kids, while giving them a relationship-building project to work on together, Evans said.
"Right now, everything is free," Evans said. "We want parents to get on and begin using the site the way we have intended them to use it."
EthosU was founded on Aug. 14, 2012. The social network launched a year later, with funding from the founders and their families and friends.
(Reach Naples Daily News reporter Laura Layden email@example.com. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.shns.com.)