Disney has long been known for all sorts of endeavors – movies, TV, theme parks and more – and now it’s venturing into the world of social networking. Last week Disney acquired Togetherville, a social networking aimed at kids between the ages of 6 and 10. Marketed as “online neighborhoods for kids and their grownups,” Togetherville offers features similar to Facebook and other social networking sites but with strong parental controls and monitoring. Similar to sites like Everloop and Imbee, Togetherville promises kid-safe communication and interaction online while eliminating certain online dangers including cyberbullying and online predators.
Togetherville is different from other “Facebooks for tweens” though because it targets kids even younger, and also involves a parent-managed friend list that parents access through Facebook. But the site promises that kids will never be on Facebook; this is just a way for parents to further monitor what their kids are doing online and who they’re interacting with. The idea behind Togetherville is that parents control their child’s “neighborhood” by choosing friends for their kids amongst their own friends and their kids.
The concept behind Togetherville is very constructive and positive overall – not only can kids interact with other users but they can play games, create artwork and watch videos. But user comments for different reviews such as TechCrunch and CNBC – while recognizing the positive features of the site – also question the logic and necessity for kids as young as 6 to be on social networking sites. We’ve seen that kids are starting to create a digital footprint earlier and earlier these days. And while it’s important to be online savvy eventually, is it risky to put kids’ information online at such an early age?
Whether kids are on social networking sites or not as early as six years old, it’s important for parents to have a solid understanding of what’s happening online. It’s also helpful to create an open and honest environment for your kids to talk to you about any questions they have about online activities, and for you to discuss any concerns of your own. And if your kids are on sites like Facebook or MySpace – targeted to both kids and adults – having some way to monitor them is always helpful.
How old do you want your kids to be before they get involved with social networking and other online activities?