It’s no secret that social networking is a large part of our culture. Facebook and other social networking sites have minimum age requirements that some kids get around by lying about the year they were born. Parents must be vigilant in this day and age.
Tecca has some tips for online safety for families with young kids. It’s advisable for parents to go through these safety tips with their child so both are prepared for all the internet has to offer and the dangers it threatens.
While reality can be scary, there are plenty of safe sites designed for kids under 13. Still, all the kid-friendly social networking sites in the world won’t help if kids find the adult versions more fun. We researched kid-friendly sites and then talked to kids to get a feel for the fun factor to collect four kid-approved sites.
Become a fan
Fanlala has all the features of a traditional MySpace-style social networking site, with blogging, sharing, and group features. The monitoring settings offer you the choice to approve kids’ posts and friend requests. Fanlala requires parents to verify their identity by phone, credit card, or fax.
Fanlala is a teen beat-style site with quizzes, close encounters with teen heartthrobs, and age-appropriate entertainment news. Pop stars such as Justin Bieber and actors such as Robert Pattinson have pages which members can “fan.”
Fanlala is tough on cyberbullying and features a short and clearly stated list of how to use the internet safely. Although administrators review content prior to posting, some content goes live immediately. Reviews posted on Common Sense Media say that Fanlala is age appropriate, and kids love it.
Join the virtual classroom
Teachers use Edmodo to connect with their classes in a safe, easy way and customize virtual classrooms for each learner. Edmodo allows teachers and students to collaborate, share content, and access homework, grades, and school notices.
Jennifer Schneide, an eighth-grade teacher in Bellevue, Nebraska, had her students change their profile pictures on Edmodo to their favorite To Kill a Mockingbird character and post status-like messages as those characters. “They seem to enjoy the features,” said Schneide. “It is great for students who are more hesistant to participate vocally in class. Many students become ‘Edmodo stars’ and, as a result, start to feel more comfortable talking in class.”
Edmodo has been called is a safe version of Facebook for the classroom. Parents can participate by creating their own Edmodo accounts, and teachers can use Edmodo to connect with colleagues in other parts of the country to share ideas and offer support.
Fun and penguins
Parental consent is required for kids to join Club Penguin, a Disney massively multiplayer online game (MMO) site, and the game is moderated at all times. Kids can report problems with an easy click of the moderator button when something’s not quite right. You can set things up so your child can only see preset chat options, but even with prewritten chat settings turned off, filters exclude inappropriate words or personal information.
Club Penguin lets kids talk to other kids from all over the world. What information they can share with one another is limited, but they can still learn about each other using the set responses. For example, they can share their favorite color or what they are doing, but not their address or any other compromising information. Ryan, age 10, liked that Club Penguin was “interactive and you could do lots of stuff: You could dance and go into clubs and dress your penguin.”
Jordan, age 12, once frequented Club Penguin but has switched to Fantage, another MMO site. Members of Fantage are free to explore the world with avatars that use hoverboards to get from place to place.
Jordan told us with excitement about all the features available at Fantage such as fashion shows, games, and engaging social aspects. When Tecca spoke with Jordan, she had just signed off after joining an Alice in Wonderland party. Theme parties are held from time to time where kids can dress their avatars in costumes like Alice or the Queen of Hearts. During the parties, new features also become available, like “going down the rabbit hole.”
Fantage won the Children’s Technology Review Editors Choice Award in 2009 and is certified kidSAFE+ CERTIFIED by kidSAFE Seal Program. Fantage offers you a lot of options and control over your child’s activities, even a No Chat option if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of online chat.
Good, safe fun
It’s hard to find a balance between keeping kids safe and allowing them to be kids and have fun, especially when it comes to social networking. If a site isn’t fun, it won’t matter how safe it is — no kid will use it. The trick is to find a social networking site that is age-appropriate, safe, and fun.
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