What was life like before Facebook? My friends and I were talking about that just the other day. I mean, it was only a few short years ago that the social networking site even came on my radar. Yet now it's the place I turn to send messages to old friends, read important posts on eco-issues, bounce ideas off of colleagues, invite neighbors to coffee ... you name it!
Facebook is a great site, but Facebook was never meant to be a site for kids. Privacy tools are confusing, and security is practically non-existent — meaning there is no way to protect your kids from strangers and no way to make sure that the status updates, pictures, and videos they are posting are not being picked up by the wrong people.
Enter Togetherville. A social network specifically designed for kids under 13 that gives both parents and their kids what they're looking for online. Togetherville is very similar to Facebook (status updates, friends, profiles, etc.) but it's all done in a kid-appropriate way. Most importantly, parents have complete control over their kids' sites, from status updates to friend lists.
Each neighborhood is built around each specific child and remains closed to outsiders. Friends and trusted adults in a child's social sphere come directly from their parent's network, so there is no fear of unknown or anonymous adults or children connecting with the child.
So what can kids do in Togetherville? They can create their own profile pages, play games, watch (pre-screened) videos, create artwork, send and receive gifts, send messages to friends, and comment on their friends' activities.
My friend (Facebook friend) Debbie had this to say about Togetherville:
"My youngest son is high-functioning autistic and loves technology, especially the computer.
He enjoys watching videos, but youtube is filled with tastless parodies of Sesame Street, Blues Clues, and so forth. They look innocent to begin with, but in the middle, there's always a voice over making vulgar comments or cursing; not so with Togetherville.
There, he can watch the videos, and not be (I hope) exposed to such filth. I still monitor him though. :o) He enjoys the games there to[o]."
The bottom line is that kids can engage online without parents having to stand over their shoulder — and that's good news for both parents and kids.
The site is in beta testing right now and is designed for kids 6 to 10, but any kid under 13 can sign up.