Finding safe online social networks for the kids
October 18, 2010
by Mark Ollig

Choosing safe websites for children to use has been a concern for parents and guardians since the era of web browsing over the Internet began.

Today’s popular adult social networks such as Facebook should not be used by a child under 13, according to the Federal Trades Commission (FTC) Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) of 1998.

One of the conditions in COPPA prevents websites from collecting personal information about children who are under the age of 13 without a parent’s permission.

Parents are rightly concerned about the safety of their kids while they are using the Internet.

One precaution parents can take is checking out the online social network beforehand, ensuring it is being run by a website community which has a good reputation for child safety.

Finding the answers to a few of the following questions can also help.

Does the social networking site have their telephone number and address posted?

Is the site endorsed or recommended by your local school or community?

Is the site approved by other parents you know whose children are actively participating on it?

Another precaution which can be taking is to have the children use their computer in an open living space area where their online activities can be monitored.

I found a few children-recommended social networks while reading through my online social networking “stack-of-stuff.”

One children’s themed website is called “Togetherville.”

This site imitates the experience of an adult social networking site like Facebook, but it’s age-appropriate for children and is parent-monitored.

This site contains no outside links, no unapproved friends, and no private conversations.

Parents or guardians can sign up their children by using their own Facebook accounts to create a profile for each child.

Under the site’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), Togetherville is described as a new type of online community specifically designed for kids 6 to 10.

Kids connect online with real-life friends and family in a safe, child-friendly place with parents and trusted adults.

To post comments on this site, children must agree to Togetherville’s code of conduct which states: “I agree to not say anything mean or hurtful, not say embarrassing things about myself, my friends, or my family, and take responsibility for what I say on Togetherville.”

This site also assists parents’ and guardians’ participation in their children’s introduction to social media by encouraging parent-child interaction. Not only can parents view their child’s social network activity, but they can also post messages to his or her profile wall – like on Facebook.

It should be noted there is no connection between the two companies. Togetherville is a separate website and company from Facebook.

The Togetherville social networking site is at http://togetherville.com.

“Skid-e Kids” is a children’s social networking site which relies on moderators for most of its security.

This website has been reviewed by CNN and has the full endorsement from the Georgia Department of Education.

One safety feature of a site includes a software filter for inappropriate language.

All pictures uploaded are checked by a human moderator before being posted.

Any of the children-submitted articles and stories they write for the site’s “Written by You” section are edited for inappropriate language.

The site’s numerous interest group pages are also moderated.

The advantage of this site is the constant human moderation of the content.

The parents or guardians aren’t required to constantly “check in” or continually monitor their child’s online activity on the site.

You can reach the Skid-e Kids children’s themed website at http://www.skid-e-kids.com.

My favorite though, is a children’s website maintained by the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) which provides a music learning themed website for kids and families called “SFS Kids Fun with Music.”

SFS states they are committed to musical education within their own community and beyond.

SFS says their website – in conjunction with their live performances – provides a great way for people of all ages to hear, learn, and have fun with music.

One of the music learning places on this site is called The Music Lab.

Here, children can learn, the basics of music, starting with the sheet music staff, musical notes tempo, rhythm, pitch, harmony and more.

Kids will see, learn and hear a variety of musical instruments played on this site.

The children can even create their own music and hear it being played.

The SFS Kids Fun with Music website wants children (and parents) to consider their site a premier web destination for learning about music.

The SFS Kids Fun with Music website was created by the San Francisco Symphony Education Department.

This website is located at http://www.sfskids.org.

Your music-loving columnist encourages you to make a visit there the next time you’re online.

The bits_blogger reported he will have more information and links related to child safety on the Internet posted on the Web Site of The Week’s online forum.

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