Kid-safe Alternatives to MySpace

Question

My 10 year old son keeps bugging me to let him get a MySpace page and I know I don’t want him to have one, but is there anything setup for younger children that is safe?

-Maggie

Answer

This question was answered on September 22, 2006. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

The “Social Networking” phenomenon that has been popularized by MySpace.com has launched hundreds of alternatives for everything from children to musicians to various faith-based groups (If you have a specific interest, try searching Google for “social networking sites” and you will find various listings of everything imaginable.)

Any parent that spends more than two minutes on MySpace knows why you don’t want your child involved (The current eligibility requirement that is posted at MySpace.com is 14 years of age or older, but I cringe at a 14 year old seeing many of the pictures and a lot of the language that fills the site.)

Fortunately, enough attention has been generated that hundreds of sites have popped up (with more being launched every day) that are more socially redeeming than MySpace.com

Take a look at sites like www.imbee.com, which is specifically designed for users between the age of 8 and 14 It’s free to join, but in order to share, invite others or see other user’s content, a parent must use a credit card for verification The credit card is not charged, it is simply used to verify that the child had a parent approve the use of the site.

Instead of just posting policies and dealing with problems after the fact, Imbee.com incorporates various safety mechanisms including parental tools that will allow monitoring of activity and viewing of posts, comments or exchanges with other users.

A less conventional approach for younger children that uses a virtual world and “avatars” (an image that is chosen to represent a user in virtual interactions) is located at www.whyville.net This site is more of a combination of games, educational material and basic interactions, such as chat in a highly graphical interface.

There are also a host of religious based social networking sites such as www.mypraize.com, <a href="http://www.friendsbyfaith.com" target="_">www.friendsbyfaith.com></a>, www.xianz.com which are much less trafficked and less likely to allow posts that include vulgar language or pictures, hate messages or derogatory information when reported to the administrator.

Another pre-teen focused site is www.tweenland.com, which was started by “an attorney, computer hack and father of a tween”.

Whether anything that is posted on any Internet site is really ever safe is questionable, so even sites that are designed for younger users require parents to make sure that personally identifiable information is not being submitted.

Before you make any decision on which site you will allow your child to join, be sure to spend an evening looking at the site first See what limitations you can place on his page, how much control you have over who sees his page and what level of parental control/monitoring it provides.

In addition, be sure to stay interested and involved in their online world so as things change you won’t have to try to catch up.

If you want to further control the content viewed by your child anywhere on the Internet, consider adding in a good parental control program such as K9 Web Protection (www.k9webprotection.com), which is free.

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Author

Posted by Chad of Data Doctors on September 22, 2006