Social Networking Sites Just for Kids
InternetSafety101.org reveals that 72 percent of adolescents have a social networking profile. Consumer Reports found that 5 million kids under the age of 10 have a Facebook page (though the site's rules discourage anyone under the age of 13 from creating an account) and one million kids under 18 have been bullied on Facebook. "If your child is on Facebook or any other social networking site, you should be on it too," Patchin advises.
It's helpful to know how to report any abuse taking place on these sites. Facebook allows you to report not only security abuse but also sensitive issues such as inappropriate or objectionable actions. MySpace has ParentCare(myspace.com/parentcare), where you can lock the age on your teen's profile or delete it entirely. Meanwhile Formspring.com, which allows users to post anonymously, lets you report inappropriate behavior.
"There are a number of sites sprouting up that are more appropriate for younger kids," says Patchin. Togetherville.com allows kids under 10 to play games, create artwork, watch videos, and post messages. Although the page is created through your Facebook page (your child's contact list is made up of friends that you select), your child never enters the actual Facebook site.
At WhatsWhat.me (ages 7-13), kids must use a webcam to submit headshots that will verify their identity through facial recognition software. Kids can't make friends with anyone outside of their age group without a parent's permission. On ScuttlePad.com (ages 6-11), kids can't register without parent approval. Plus, all comments need to follow a specific format -- only first names -- and all photos are manually approved by the site.
giantHello.com works a bit better for older kids (ages 7 to 13) because it closely resembles Facebook's functionality. There's a profile page for comments, status updates, and recent activity (like joining groups). Over at PenPalKidsClub.com, an edutainment website, kids can interact with others around the world; it's monitored 24/7 and emphasizes learning, not just message and photo exchanges.