Social networking has officially reached the younger set.
Togetherville, an online community that targets 6- to 10-year olds (and their parents), has just launched with an unusual proposition. Instead of shunning parents in lieu of giving free rein to kids, as sites such as Habbo do, Togetherville invites parents to construct the social networks for and with their kids.
The intent of Togetherville is to engage kids in social networking, but to do it safely. CEO Mandeep Singh Dhillon says, “In Togetherville, parents have peace of mind that their kids are playing with people they know and trust and kids have fun while learning the tools they need to become good digital citizens.”
At its heart, Togetherville is a kind of junior Facebook, or learning to drive with an instructor who’s got one foot on their own brake pedal (just in case).[more]
Kids earn “stamps” for their Togetherville Passport by expressing themselves, engaging in activities, and playing games. While they play with real-world friends, their parents “act as the gateways for new contacts” and “guide their kids through the age-appropriate content.”
Wired.com blogger Kevin Makice sees the site’s moderated content as a strength and a potential drawback. “The few opportunities to freely create text require review and acceptance by staff before they will appear on the site,” he writes. “This was a turnoff for my [10-year old] son: ‘It’s like they are saying that kids don’t have the ingenuity to come up with their own posts.’ ” Still, that isn’t much different from moderated sites for grownups.
Togetherville has worked with groups like the Family Online Safety Institute to make Togetherville fully compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Stephen Blakam, the Institute’s CEO, told the NYT that Togetherville “could keep younger children off Facebook, where they are more likely to find inappropriate content and are less protected from potentially harmful interactions with strangers or bullies.”
The social startup is planning to launch a feature called “Allowance” this summer. That will make it possible for parents to “pay” their children in credits so they can buy virtual games and merchandise. Now that’s something the kids should really like.