Dare prompts Florida boy to create kid-friendly social network - FOX 35 News Orlando

Dare prompts Central Florida boy to create kid-friendly social network

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MELBOURNE BEACH, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -

Zachary Marks, 11, wasn't about to give up his social-media presence, even after his dad shut down his 600-friend Facebook account.

"I went online and made another fake account, and friended the exact same people," Zach said.

But his father, Darren, found out again, and this time, he shut down Zach's Internet access altogether.

"Not one of my better parenting moments. But I was pretty upset, I have to be honest, because he lied to me."

The Melbourne Beach father of six explained to Zach that he didn't want him exposed to adult language and cursing on Facebook.

So in the middle of an argument, Zach came up with an idea.

"It was kind of a dare, pretty much," Zach said. "I'm like, 'OK, I'm making my own!'"

"I told him, go ahead, good luck. I figured it would never happen. And guess what? It happened!" Darren Marks said.

Gromsocial.com was born. With his mom's permission and $2,500 from his older brother, Zach drew up plans for the website and hired a web designer.

"When you first log on, it like pops in your mind with all the bright colors, and there's all stuff that we like," Zach said.

Gromsocial lets kids create a "Gromatar" for social media and offers kids' games and videos. Zach got the network started by signing up his school friends.

Seven months later, the site had exploded to 7,000 users.

"We had members signing up left and right, and it kept crashing, there were so many people. But I was real proud," Darren said.

Darren helped design safety controls for his son's website, such as requiring a signed contract and parent registration, parent notifications and approval of all friend requests. It's also continually monitored for content.

"Every kid that gets on our site is in a much safer environment. They are getting information that's relevant to their world. There are no drugs, no bullying no smoking," Darren said.

For now, Darren is footing the bill, though he realizes it has business potential. He and Zach plan to talk to interested media companies, including Disney, about the website.

But right now, Zach is more focused on the whole reason he invented Gromsocial in the first place.

"I'm not in it to make money. I just want to have fun with it."

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