Gabriella
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Togetherville – Do Kids Need Social Media?


I recently read about Togetherville – a social networking site for kids that creates “online neighborhoods for kids and their grownups.” It’s basically a kids version of facebook for children under 10-years old – “parents create safe online neighborhoods for their kids to play and connect with the real-life friends and family they already know and trust.” When I first heard about this my initial reaction was not good. Do kids that young really need social networking? To get an inside view of what Togetherville actually offered, I created an account for the Tiny Dancer so I could poke around the site.

Togetherville was pretty much what I expected. A kid-friendly verison of FaceBook where parents monitor their kids’ accounts and interact with them online. Kids can send messages, play games, create digital art, send and receive gifts and watch videos. Children can also receive their “allowance” digitally and then use their allowance to buy add-ons to their account.

Togetherville seems pretty harmless because everything is done under adult supervision – but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Here are the pros & cons as I see them:

PROS

  • We live in an increasingly digital world.  Interaction on FaceBook, or something like it is inevitable so Togetherville gives kids the tools (or practice) of socializing online.
  • It’s safe – there’s parental supervision – and everything on the site is appropriate content for children.
  • It’s a great way to keep in touch with people in your online neighborhood that are actually far away.

CONS

  • We live in an increasingly digital world.  And with childhood obesity on the rise, I fear that kids just don’t get to run around in their backyards the way I did as a kid.
  • Kids will learn how to socialize online, but they also need to learn to socialize in person.  I’ve seen how social media has affected how adults communicate (not good) – can you imagine if kids start so early with social networking? Will they know how to carry on a real conversation?
  • Many parents who work struggle to find quality time with their children – why would they want to spend their time interacting with their kids online?  No amount of digital “allowance” can make up for a hug or reading a story to your child.

There you have it – my two cents on Togetherville.  Do I think it’s evil? No.  Do I want my Tiny Dancer to use something like this? Probably not.  I want her to grow up knowing how to interact with people face to face – interacting online isn’t something you really need to learn.  If you know how to act with people, then you should know how to act online – you just need to make sure your kids know that the screen doesn’t make them any less anonymous or accountable for what they say and do.

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