Boy geniuses and tech startups are common modern marketplace phenomena. The barons of our time may be the 20-year-old programmers who provide Internet services that the public embraces but never knew it wanted.

So, we should expect to see more young innovators offering their unique perspectives on online communications.

Zach Marks, a 12-year-old from Melbourne Beach, Fla., is the most recent, and perhaps the youngest, entrepreneur to enter the social networking market.

Boy launches social network site(Photo: www.gromsocial.com)

After some convincing, Marks' parents agreed to let him create a profile on Facebook. However, learning that Marks had conversed with adults online whom they didn't know, they barred Marks from using this profile.

Exiled from the online social sphere, Marks began his own network, one geared toward an under-18 audience that would also garner parental approval. Although originally created just for his friends and family, the Marks family has decided to release the site to the public.

Grom Social requires parental pemission for users to create profiles. To create a profile users must enter a parent's email address. The site sends parents "report cards" on their children's site activity and interests.

Users create a cartoonish avatar, a grom-atar, that they use on the brightly-colored, animated site to interact with "friends" and explore topics such as health, school, sports and entertainment. The site offers video game tips and help with school subjects for grades 1-10.

If it continues to catch on, Grom Social just may be an incubator for future Mark Zuckerbergs and Zach Markses.

Photo: www.gromsocial.com