Social media websites like Facebook and Twitter can be useful to kids for socializing, enhancing creativity and developing technical skills, according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics on social media and children. Activity on the sites can also expose kids to cyberbullying, depression and exposure to inappropriate content, the report says. So what is a parent to do?
Luckily for the moms and dads of tweens and tots anxious to update their status online, there are plenty of kid-friendly social networks available today that present much better options than banning your offspring completely from the Web, driving them to lie about their age to sites like Facebook, or worse.
Here are our picks for the top five kid-specific social networks that give kids a voice, but parents control.
- Kidswirl: Billed as “Facebook for kids,” Kidswirl lets kids feel like they’re on the “real deal” site by allowing kids to build their own profile, upload and share pictures, and use their own email to create an account, provided their parents enter an email address and verification too. The site also has a first-of-its-kind “Parent Control Panel” that gives parents complete control of their child’s account, from password protected account changes to accepting ‘friend’ requests and setting privacy controls. Cost: free. Ages: kids and tweens (2-13).
- Everloop: One of the newest sites on the block, Everloop calls itself a “social looping platform” because it creates a “privacy loop around kids’ online connections.” Kids can add friends and engage with other kids online, while parents have the option to restrict features like IM and receive alerts when their child adds new friends, all while knowing the site is monitored 24/7 for inappropriate content and activity. Cost: free. Ages: tweens (8-13).
- Scuttlepad: Once parents register and receive an email to approve and verify the account, their kids can start personalizing their own home page with photos (which must be approved by the site) and adding friends. The messages and status update features are unique in that kids must choose words from a list to create an update, so they learn about sentence structure and grammar while connecting with friends. Cost: free. Ages: 6-11.
- Togetherville: Families themselves create their own online neighborhoods so kids interact only with the friends and family in your approved social network. Once in the neighborhood, they can play games, watch videos, and update their status with preapproved phrases. Parents sign in with their Facebook login the site automatically finds your Facebook friends and their children already on Togetherville. Parents also have full access to their child’s activity at any time, from any location. Cost: free (1 cent credit card verification charge). Ages: 6-10.
- Imbee: Touting itself as the “world’s first social networking ‘mega-platform’ for kids,” Imbee allows kids to join “fanzones” for celebs and athletes, create groups with their own friends, share video and pics or write their own blog. The site requires a credit card authorized-parent account before kids can sign up, and gives parents free reign over their child’s account settings and a detailed, step-by-step guide for parents to navigate the site’s security settings. Cost: free ($1 credit card verification fee). Ages: tweens (8-14).
One reminder: All five of our picks follow the regulations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, but it’s still necessary, and highly recommended, to make sure you, the parent, read the Terms and Conditions thoroughly before registering to any of the websites listed above.
Tell us what you think of the list. Are there any top kid-friendly sites we missed?