Sersha’s Ruth Guest: A New Era in Social Media Safety for Pre-Teens and Families

Ruth Guest is the Founder and CEO of Sersha, a platform that is delivering simplified social media training for pre-teens and their families. Recently, Guest was crowned the winner of the Square Root Solutions and Factory44 Start-App Competition, which offered early-stage startups and entrepreneurs the chance to win a €20,000 prize package to bring creative apps or website concepts to fruition.

Ruth Guest SershaDiscussing her background, Guest mentioned, “My background spans a few different areas, from creative storytelling and marketing to, most recently, Cyberpsychology. I completed my MSc in Cyberpsychology in 2022, studying how we as a society communicate in the online world, including how people present themselves on TikTok.

“All of this led me to have a real interest in the psychological impact of social media, particularly on youth and pre-teens. I founded Sersha in 2022, and the rest is history!”

What is Sersha?

Describing Sersha, Guest explained: “With Sersha, I wanted to create an edtech platform that was unlike any others on the market. We’re developing an educational game that aims to teach pre-teens how to navigate every-day challenges they may encounter on social media. The game is accompanied by resources for parents, to help them build better trust with their children and engage in meaningful conversations about social media safety in the home (as well as similar resources for educators for classroom discussions).”

Guest’s idea for the business took many turns. “The idea I had originally started out as a Digital Therapeutics (DTX) solution, using photorealistic avatars and AI to deliver therapy to adolescents.

“However, I pivoted to where I felt families needed the most help: addressing mental wellbeing concerns for pre-teens using smartphones and social media.

“Having just finished a Master of Science in Cyberpsychology, exploring self-presentation and self-concept clarity on TikTok, I was already passionate about this area of tech. And as I began to research it even further, I could see that there was a real need in the market for a platform like Sersha.”

Platforms that ensure the wellbeing of children and pre-teens on social media are so important in the current day. With children joining social media and browsing the internet at younger ages, safety for children needs to be a top priority. Encouraging families to discuss the safety concerns regarding platforms.

Why is social media safety so important right now?

“With over 85% of pre-teens in Ireland using social media today, despite age limits, I felt there was a real gap in the market for essential social media safety training – and making this a family experience,” Guest commented.

“Parents today have access to a plethora of information online pertaining to social media safety. But it’s a lot to wade through, and it can be challenging to stay up to date on all of this when balancing a career with busy family life.

“On the other hand, for pre-teens, many are already signing up for the likes of TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram, with no prior knowledge of how these apps work or their privacy and safety risks.

“There’s a big disconnect between parents and their children when it comes to talking about social media safety as a result. Restricting (or banning) access to social media is often peddled as the most effective way of keeping children safe. But ultimately, this forces kids to be secretive about their use of social media, and leaves little room for them to be open and honest with their parents. It means that when they do inevitably sign up to social media, they are doing so without the digital literacy they need to navigate these apps safely.”

The challenges and highlights of the journey

As a startup founder, while the journey is rewarding, there will always be challenges.

Guest mentioned the challenges she has so far faced in the Sersha journey: “As this is my first startup, there have been many challenges and learning curves along the way.

“I would say product-market fit has been the biggest challenge, overall. We think we have it nailed now, but we will have to wait and see when we launch in September 2024.”

Whilst there may be challenges along the way, Guest has also had highlights making the journey to market successful. Discussing the biggest highlight, she said: “The biggest highlight has been getting parents to sign up to our pilot programme, and invest their money into the early stages of the Sersha product.

“This trust and support has meant the world, and has also helped us to secure additional investment and demonstrate that there is a real appetite for what we are selling.”

The world of startups is full of highs and lows, and having a support system like supportive parents around can make the process feel smoother. Another highlight was winning the StartApp Competition.

“I found my experience with the StartApp competition so enjoyable! I received some great feedback about Sersha and built connections with some really interesting people and businesses,” she said.

What’s in the future?

Guest is excited for the future of Sersha: “We have our market launch just around the corner (September 2024) which we’re really excited about. Watch this space!”

We’re excited to see how Ruth Guest and Sersha develop in the future, and the impact they will have on internet safety.