Happly Story

Hi, I’m Brian Monnin, founder of Happly and father of two boys — Theo (9) and Duncan (6). I created this app so I could have more fun playing and learning with my boys on all the cool new devices finding their way into our home.

A typical afternoon in our home isn’t limited to a single topic. We play, laugh, practice music, take breaks, grab a snack, listen to songs, make jokes, watch videos, play games, study, search online and laugh a whole lot more. We did these things before iPads but now with the Internet no longer confined to the shared family laptop, mobile technology has brought new challenges into our home.

The realization that I needed to do more than just buy a new device happened on a typical Saturday morning. Duncan called us over to see something. He was playing Angry Birds, a game that we all love, and he tapped an icon for video on YouTube. It begins innocently enough as a mock peace conference held for the game’s characters that quickly goes awry. The characters’ oinks and chirps appear as subtitles. “Funny, I think…”

Theo, Duncan’s older brother, is reading along and about 30 seconds into the video he speaks as clearly as a news anchor following a teleprompter: “F—- you”. There it is, the F-bomb is dropped for the first time in the house by our kids. It wasn’t used in a malicious or slanderous way but I knew that I hadn’t wanted it to happen and that I assumed Angry Birds wouldn’t lead my kids to an adult media experience.

Media leading our kids astray is nothing new of course. There have been too many violent video game TV commercials or zombie movie trailers while watching the Sunday football games with my boys to remember. It’s always the same drill as I fumble for the remote, wait for the channel to change and by then the damage is done. The kids do not miss any of it. Theo responds “Wow!” Duncan gives a worried look and says, “Did that man really die?” Another crime drama promo–edited to perfection–plays during the middle of the afternoon.

Back on the browser, we know online games introduce the notion of violence without consequence and try to keep an eye on it the best we can. Recently a 14-year old son of friends who were over for dinner went on a game website with our kids to a rousing game of “Creative kill chamber”. “It wasn’t real blood Dad, just stick figures”, Theo would later tell us.


Each child is different.

Siblings may share some interests but usually differ on one or many topics. Once kids are reading and typing into search engines, they have a 100% success rate of delivering unappealing results. We’re not “helicopter-parents,” as my wife Janine says but we do feel that with all these connected devices we were beginning to lose control.

However, I did not want a neglect-o-matic solution where I drop the iPad in front of my child and walk away. The browser on our shared living room PC wasn’t cutting it either. The parental controls in a Web browser are too much of a pain to set up and monitor. Besides putting up a Berlin Wall just wasn’t what we wanted our family atmosphere to be like.

Most importantly we wanted to be part of what they were experiencing on these fantastic devices. To understand what was so great about a new game, to bring inspiration and education in discovering new sites and to laugh with millions of others families watching hilarious videos.

But more often than not each person in the family went their own way on their own device. I knew we weren’t alone and I began to see this connected isolation happen all over town. The scene below is now common to families in a variety of public settings. In this case, we happened to be waiting while big brother Theo took a tennis lesson.

Tennis anyone?

Tennis anyone?

I am more interested in how to be a smart parent than I am in the feature set of the latest smart phones and I wanted to keep up with all the new content experiences my boys were coming across. I wanted it to be something that we could do together. I realized this meant I would need to spend more time finding quality content for their unique interests and not leave it up to a search algorithm or 24-7 monitoring software.

The pressure to do something more was mounting up. “So do something about it,” my wife Janine said.

After 15 years of working on digital media for MSNBC.com, Microsoft, and as an entrepreneur creating multimedia storytelling software used by publishers such as Food Network, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic, my personal and professional worlds began to collide. I convinced an amazing team of interactive storytellers, engineers and experts to work with me to solve this problem for families experiencing the same thing mine was.

The Happly Team

It’s an incredible team and if you’ve spent anytime on NationalGeographic.com in the last few years you will have experienced first hand the handiwork of Greg Harris our creative genius, and Stefan Estrada our head of technology. All experts and all parents (except for Stefan–no pressure Stefan…)

We are thrilled to introduce you to Happly — the app for smart parents with curious kids.

Discover amazing content from the Happly editorial team and expert contributors.
Happly has partnered with some of the world’s most talented experts — National Geographic photographers & writers, award-winning children’s book authors & illustrators and other great thinkers — to create exciting stories from the world of animals, dinos, sports and many more. Each week Happly presents new features and curated stories so your family’s learning, sharing and playing opportunities expand as well.

Customize your family’s experience with our easy to use Happly tools.
Parents pick and choose to add additional links, post videos and share articles to tailor Happly based on each family member’s unique interests.

Communicate with your kids using the Happly messaging tool.
Happly is designed to start great conversations. Our messaging tools give parents the ability to recommend stories, and even your youngest kids the ability to tell family members what they enjoyed the most. Best of all it doesn’t require you to get an email account for your kids! It’s safe and contained within the iPad app.

We hope your family has as much fun using Happly as we have had creating it. We are just getting started and learning new things about families each day. We’d love to hear what you think so we can keep improving Happly to make your mobile family experience as great as possible. Please send us your thoughts, ideas and any problems you encounter here: http://getsatisfaction.com/happly.

Download the free app on iTunes and enjoy!

– Brian Monnin, Happly Founder