While Facebook has proven to be the most used social networking site, there have been various other initiatives that try to either compete with or re-create the successful social networking tactics of Facebook. MySpace serves as a good example of a Facebook competitor, while “kids only” imbee is an example of a site that’s re-creating the Facebook concept. Marketed as the first secure social network for kids, imbee features chat, groups, and games, and allows users to post photos, videos, and comments. Sound familiar? These are all features available on Facebook but imbee promises a “safe social networking site that allows the young, hip and trendy to share and connect with friends, their lives and their world through a one-of-a-kind social media experience.”
The site actually launched a few years ago but was fined in 2008 by the Federal Trade Commission for collecting personal information from over 10,000 kids without adequately notifying parents. Then last Thursday imbee re-launched with a cyberbullying PSA and more comprehensive parental controls. And while the updated site is free right now – although parents do have to use a credit card for identity authorization of their child’s account – users will soon have the option of paying for upgraded premium services.
Imbee allows kids from 8-14 to join the social network, and assures participants that the more active users the site attracts, the more groups and fan sites will form to boost the overall experience. While Facebook users are technically supposed to be 13 or older, kids younger than that are creating profiles because the majority of social networking users are on Facebook. Perhaps the most compelling aspects of imbee are that it offers various sources of entertainment, contact, and activity and it provides a good outlet for kids. But Facebook has similar features with far more users so can imbee really catch on? And despite the privacy settings that comply with COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act), there could still be risks of online reputation damage and oversharing through imbee. There could also eventually be a standard subscription fee, and as long as Facebook remains as popular as it is now, kids will probably continue to gravitate toward the (free) social network that more people are on.
Whatever sites your kids use for social networking and social media, talk to them about their Internet use. Any site – regardless of the level of privacy settings or parental controls – can be safe if kids know how to communicate and interact appropriately online.
Have you heard of imbee? Have your kids expressed any interest in using the site?