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The New Etiquette: Togetherville Teaches Social Networking

Posted by Barry Silverstein on May 19, 2010 01:27 PM

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).

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.



Ro Canada says:

I'm not sure where I stand on this. The importance of social media has increased multifold in recent years, so it was only a matter of time someone would develop the idea to rope the tweens and tots in as soon as they can read and write proper sentences. Besides the issue of having a parent review their kid's thoughts/opinions, a greater issue is security. While such a tool might keep kids off Facebook, what's the guarantee that it will keep predatory people away from these children?

May 20, 2010 02:22 AM #

Jatinder Vijh India says:

This is an excellent idea to engage kids in a digital environment that is safe and secure and is their own domain with parents too getting engaged in a meaningful way rather  than spying on their kids movements on the internet . It provides an alternative to kids who would have otherwise gone to other websites and become victims. Ro's concern is equally true but then parents being around can always alert the kids if there is a predatory roaming around. Hope this platform meets the objective for which it has been raised. Kudos to the creators of Togetherville.

May 20, 2010 05:25 AM #

Sarbjit Rai United States says:

Really love the idea of engaging & educating kids at an early age however i would prefer to see children under 10 playing outside, getting fresh air, reading books and learning about the world through a more natural and healthy media than a computer or use of social media games.

I recognise this is a natural progression with the explosion of facebook and other social media tools however this will just increase the divide in educational development between children in the developing world and western countries, any ideas on how to bridge the gap?

May 21, 2010 06:25 PM #

Jatinder Vijh India says:

Sarbjit does make a very valid point on preference of outdoor activities over the use of computers by kids. It is a very ideal thing to have but reality is that we too have the digital world.

There has to be  a balance between the real world and the virtual world. The two can co-exist with each other or rather supplement each other. Over indulgence of one at the cost of the other would not be an ideal situation.

The digital divide could be bridged through providing low cost computers to schools in developing countries and under developed countries. The real challenge is to get the kids to schools in these economies at the first place.

May 21, 2010 10:13 PM #

Loving Nnanna says:

TogetherVille can be used as a tool to bridge the divide by promoting a reward system for the children who live in underdeveloped economies. For instance if a game is played by children whereby a Laptop is donated regularly for children whose native brands contribute halfway to meet the cost, various stakeholders will be joined in creating real exciting values as well as fund through advertising.  

May 24, 2010 09:57 AM #

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