Catholic Mom Creates “Creeper-free” Social Network for Youth

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Writer 

A Catholic mom posing as a teen on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook discovered these sites to be a “cultural wasteland” full of sexual inuendo and pornography where thousands of registered sex offenders freely roam. In an effort to offer kids a safer place to socialize on line, this tech savvy mother of five decided to create one herself. is a new online social networking site created by Mary Kay Hoal, former vice president of technology publisher CMP Media and mother of five children between the ages of 4 and 18. The new site requires parental consent and verifies that the parent or guardian is not a sex offender, thus creating a safe have for kids and teens 18 and under.

The idea for the site came a few years ago when Hoal read a report revealing that the number of registered sex offenders with profiles on the popular social networking site, MySpace, was almost 29,000. At the same time, her daughter Madison was begging for permission to join the site.

After hearing that report, Hoal told her daughter Madison, “If we wouldn’t open up the door of our home to 29,000 registered sex offenders, then we can’t do it online. I wouldn’t let any of those people get to know you. It is against the law for registered sex offenders offline to interact with children, to work with children, to be near children. But online there is no barrier.”

Madison persisted, however, and Hoal decided it was time to learn everything she could about social networking sites. She began by posing as a teen and setting up profiles for herself on MySpace, Facebook, MyYearbood, hi5, and TeenSpot.  What she found was shocking.

“I found such a coarse culture that really focused on the hyper-sexualization of kids,” she told Zenit News. “They were in a community that was a cultural wasteland. There were kids who were sexually solicited by adults. I saw some of the cruelest online behavior. And even with a profile set to private, I was two clicks away from pornography.”

Hoal recalled getting a “friend request” from someone named Samantha that linked her to a porn site.

She said her daughters were asked on a high school site to take a picture of their best body part so they could be “hi-fived.”

On another site for teens, Hoal found that users are not categorized by gender, age or location, but by whether or not they are bisexual, straight or gay.

“I stopped dead in my tracks when I had the full realization of what my kids were being exposed to,” she said. “I thought I had to fix this problem because I found nothing that was reflective of my daughter and my other four children, and the children in their youth group, and the kids in their school. Of course sexuality is a part of every human being, but so is their spirituality, their interest in their school, so is their interest in sports, or going to college, or poetry or theater.”

That’s when the idea of Yoursphere was born. Hoal decided to create a positive space online where children can share interests such as sports, academics, gaming, fashion and music, all the while interacting with friends who really are their peers. Members can join existing interest-based groups called spheres, or create their own. While the site is not faith-based, Hoal said there is already a Love Jesus sphere created by one of the users. She says this type of initiative from a member is part of the site’s mission.

The Yoursphere founder said there “would be no — as we call them — ‘creepers,’ there would be no predators, there would be no sex offenders, and there would be no pornographers targeting youth. And there would be nobody in Yoursphere that would set up a fake profile with the intention to hurt or solicit another person.”

This is accomplished by eliminating anonymity. To join the site each user must enter parental information, and the parents or guardians are contacted for their consent to join the site. Yoursphere verifies the identity of the parent or guardian providing consent, and also confirms the adult is not a registered sex offender.

The site exceeds the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, and it is the sole youth-only social networking site backed by the Federal Trade Commission’s Safe Harbor Program through its certification by Privacy Vaults Online.

The site also counts on a task force that has law enforcement professionals and experts who work to protect the positive environment.

Another goal of the site is to educate parents and children about online safety. Yoursphere invites parents to join a parallel community where they can discuss online safety, and the site sends out a monthly newsletter with tips to keep children safe online.

“Everyday has its challenges in being a parent,” said Hoal, “but keeping up with the pace of technology is absolutely overwhelming.”

Hoal said that while membership is currently growing at about 20 percent a week, the total number of users is still in the low thousands.

Visit or Mary Kay Hoal’s blog at

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