Disney wants your children under 10 to be able to use social networks just like mom and dad. But instead of Facebook, children will have the option of the Disney acquired Togetherville -- a highly monitored Facebook-esque site for the under 10 set.
I know my 4-year-old would love it and I would love to let her use it. I happen to think social networking is a really positive development. Both of my children are under five and they are well adept at using computers and iPhones and iPads. I have no doubt that they would benefit from having online friendships. My 4-year-old currently does a fairy social network thing through the Tinkerbell website. It is not a big deal and not something she does everyday, but it is fun for her to share her fairy and her father and I monitor it closely.
So, why would I have a problem with this one?
Togetherville works a bit like Facebook but in an age-appropriate and parent-monitored environment. Parents can and do moderate who their children are connecting with. Parents approve each of their child’s friends, and can also connect with other parents using Facebook’s social graph.
Kids have their very own social community in which they can talk to friends, play games, watch videos, and create art, but parents are directly involved both online and off. Children create “neighborhoods” from Facebook friends, and can connect through school communities. It is directly connected to the parent's Facebook.
I get the worries, of course. If it is not monitored, it could be a predator playground, but realistically, few children under 10 would be interested in talking about anything other than the shows they watch or games they play and few parents of children that young would let their children surf around unmonitored.
If my daughter were to use something like this, I would assume this would always be something we did together, sitting in front of the computer. Yes, it seems little silly, but when I was just a little older than my daughter, I selected random pen pals from the back of magazines and we corresponded for years with them. We wrote long letters, we exchanged photos and presents and secrets and it was fun.
There was nothing strange or nefarious at work. There were no predators. It was just fun. I view this as a modern version of that. Any parent who monitors their child on line really has no reason to worry about a program like this.
Would you let your kids try it?
Image via GoodNCrazy/Flickr