Yet another Social Networking site, but the target niche differs this time – “Togetherville”, launched earlier this week, is anticipated to become the next big thing for children aged 6 to 10 and their parents.
No, that’s not a typo- I know what you’re thinking: are 10 year olds now allowed on online social networks? Well, the truth is, while Facebook’s “privacy” issues have become a dilemma for grown-ups today, many pre-teens are still strangers to this fact and are still lying about their age on Facebook’s website in order to get “private” Facebook accounts behind their parents’ back!! (Facebook registration is not permissible to children below 13). I do recognize the need for preteens to understand what the Facebook buzz is all about (can you blame them?!), but the truth is, once there and digging deeper into its functions, they soon come to realize that Facebook is not really their cup of tea – no useful videos they can relate to, no games they can engage in with their mates online, facebook is simply not well equipped for preteens… but “Togetherville” is!
I tested the site this morning and was struck by its neatness- the fact that its pages are not yet invaded by ads left me impressed (not for long – am figuring, as its reputation is soon to mushroom). So what’s it all about??
– A site which allows children to get introduced to social networking “decent” practices – under the almost “undetectable” surveillance of their parents.
– A site which allows children to “friend” their mates on the web (the request has to go through their parents first), play games, make online art and watch videos together.
– A site which permits a solid “online” relationship between children and their parents, and other members of their direct or extended family (Togetherville’s CEO Mandheep Dhillon thinks solid online relationships between children and their families are vital so children can experience a healthy introduction to the world of online social networking while they are well surrounded).
– A site which allows children to “partly” express themselves: updating their statuses or interacting with other Togetherville users in their networks can be done by using “quips” – which are pre-set statements plugged by Togetherville on the system (i.e.: I aced the exam today! Summer break is finally here, yeyy!, etc…). This limits the amount of personal info that can be exchanged online on one hand and online stalking and the likes on the other hand. (I’m not quite sure I am pro this point though- wouldn’t it limit a child’s creativity as well in a way or another when he cannot freely post what’s on his mind?!?)
– A site which allows children to use their pictures and true identity (like grown-ups), as opposed to former children sites which only allow the use of Avatars (this promotes transparency and trust).
Parents must have a Facebook account in order to connect to Togetherville and “secretly” macro-manage their children’s accounts, while children log in to Togetherville with normal user names and passwords (which leverages their sense of ownership). The site is very user- friendly, the reason being it was developed by a team of experts in child education and development and is working closely with online safety NGO “Connect Safely”. How well is it going to fare on the long run? I’m not quite sure yet, but for now, I think it will serve as a children training platform in online social networking (which is greatly needed right now), and will encourage parents to become a bit more pro-active about social networking themselves- let alone the fact that the site’s uncomplicated structure will also allow all members of a family to interact together in the same virtual space.
Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles – time for setting up those Facebook accounts, isn’t it?