Experts in digital safety
Designed with kids in mind, PopJam is touted to be a safe space where kids can get creative online. The online community was launched in July 2014, heralded as a “child-friendly alternative” to Instagram. After initial success in the UK, the app expanded to further countries around the world, including the USA, Ireland, and Canada.
According to Qustodio insights, in 2021 kids spent an average of 28 minutes on PopJam daily. But is PopJam really all as safe and kid-friendly as it seems? Read on for the complete parents’ guide to PopJam, and everything you and your kids need to know about the online community.
PopJam app ratings
What is PopJam?
According to its developers, SuperAwesome LTD, PopJam is a “creative community”, where users can create and share their own art, play games, do quizzes, and watch videos. Designed with children aged 7-12 in mind, PopJam allows kids to be a part of communities with the same interests they have, where they can “follow” what they love, from gamers and influencers to the latest trending toys. In short, PopJam is another social network, with followers and friend requests, but without many of the inherent risks that come with most of today’s popular social media platforms.
What do kids like about PopJam?
Aside from fun face filters (that disguise children’s faces enough to not be recognizable), stickers, GIFs and quizzes, PopJam also offers kids the opportunity to keep up with their hobbies and interests. Popular influencers and gamers, large-name brands, and publishing companies, such as Penguin Random House, post content on PopJam, allowing kids to keep up with the latest news and trends.
Sharing and creating content is now a standard part of online life, and younger kids may love the opportunity to be part of the “social” side that the internet offers. Creating and sharing their own content allows them to engage with children that have similar interests to them, along with receiving “likes” and feedback from kids around the world.
Is PopJam safe for kids?
Because PopJam was created for kids, it’s a relatively safe space for them on the internet. Content uploaded in the community is moderated, and there are blacklisted words which PopJam’s filters automatically block. Here’s a rundown of what kids can and can’t do using PopJam.
What kids can do on PopJam
- Create their own profile and content using the app
- Comment on other people’s posts, and leave “hearts” on them
- Join groups which represent their interests (such as video games or animals)
- Use fun, safe face filters with the camera
- Play games and watch videos
- Follow friends, public figures, influencers and companies (like book publishers or TV channels)
- Take part in quizzes and daily challenges
What kids can’t do on PopJam
- Post between 11pm and 6am (in their local time zone)
- Send private messages
- Upload pictures of themselves and others, unless they’re disguised in some form with stickers or drawings
- Upload or share any posts that reveal personal information
- Post inappropriate content
- Engage in cyberbullying, or troll and insult others
The creators of PopJam seem to have succeeded in creating a safe environment for kids, which allows them to interact with other children in a positive, creative way. However, it’s important to bear in mind that, even though it’s kid-friendly, PopJam is still a social network of sorts. In 2019, a commercial aired by the app on UK television was criticized for encouraging children to “level up” by getting “likes” and “followers”. The Advertising Standards Agency upheld the complaints and rem, stating:
“…the ad’s encouragement to gain likes and followers could cause children to develop an unhealthy perception that popularity on social media was inherently valuable, which was likely to be detrimental to their mental health and self-esteem.”
Certain aspects of social media, such as like-chasing, and the “endless scroll” (where there is an infinite amount of content available to explore) could be experienced by your child, because of the nature of the app. Influencers and individuals, just like on regular social media, post and upload their “ideal” life and experiences, which for very young children may not be easy to understand or conceptualize. It’s important to bear in mind that, even though the app is designed for kids, you may need to have some conversations with your child about the nature of social media, and building digital resilience, should they express a wish in using PopJam.
Another aspect of PopJam to consider is brand marketing: while there are no ads and your child cannot be targeted by campaigns in the app, companies can use PopJam as part of their social strategy, to better engage with kids and help. This doesn’t contribute to making the app unsafe overall – it’s simply an additional aspect of social media apps (designed for kids or not) that parents should bear in mind.
How can I make PopJam safe for my kids?
The good news is that PopJam is on the safer side of apps your kids can use, just like other “social” style apps that are now being developed for children, like Messenger Kids. It’s moderated and fully complies with digital privacy laws, including COPPA and GDPR.
To get to know the app and your child’s interests better, ask them to give you a “tour” of PopJam, so you can see how it works, and pinpoint if there’s anything that worries you. Your kid might really enjoy the chance to give you, the adult, a teaching moment, so this is a good tactic to use with new apps and games if you want to get to know your child’s digital habits better!
If you’re concerned about the more social-media style aspects of the app itself, allowing your child to use PopJam while imposing healthy limits could be one way to give them access to the app within moderation. Use a parental control tool like Qustodio to set screen time limits for your child’s daily use, or set limits on individual apps like PopJam, to help them develop better digital habits from the get-go. By setting individual limits on apps like PopJam, you’ll also be able to set boundaries without regularly checking on their usage.
Qustodio’s final advice on PopJam
Overall, we consider PopJam to be a relatively safe space for kids to engage, post, and get creative online. However, due to its social media-style and nature, we believe this makes it more appropriate for older tweens and pre-teens, aged 10-12. It could be viewed as a “lite” version to the world of social media, which most teenagers now have access to around the age of 13 (or younger, despite most platforms having restrictions on this).
If you decide it’s safe for your child to open a PopJam account, we’d suggest setting time limits on the app, along with regular discussions about how they’re engaging on the platform – what they enjoy about it, what they’re doing on there, and who they follow. After all, once you express an interest in their interests in a caring, open way, while still allowing them some room for privacy, they’ll be far more likely to keep you in the loop about their online behavior.