While some sites have tried to encourage children to participate socially with others via avatars and created online personalities, Togetherville has children use their actual selves. Children cannot be anonymous on the site, which allows them to be themselves and interact with others to help them grow and develop, rather than hide behind a fictional character.
Parents will likely find Togetherville reassuring as it places them in control. Parents can sign their children up for the site only via their own Facebook account. Once their child is signed up, the parent can then pick which of their Facebook friends they want to interact with their child. For example, one can select a few of their neighborhood friends, an aunt, a grandmother, and so on.
Once selected, those friends will then interact with the child strictly on the Togetherville site. This helps promote interaction between family members, adult friends, and other children. Since the parent is in control of the entire friend selection and approval process, they know exactly who their child is interacting with online. This is much safer than if a child anonymously signed up on a site like Facebook or MySpace and had the ability to talk to complete strangers.
The messaging and commenting functions on Togetherville are also safeguarded. Participants cannot freely type between one another. Instead, they can choose from a series of text messages from a drop-down list that are pre-approved by the site’s staff for use. These messages, called quips, are useful in preventing profanity from being used as well as cyber bullying. It also prevents a conversation from happening where an adult tries to ask a child for their personal information.
Besides the messaging and interaction with others, Togetherville offers plenty of features that should appeal to children. The site offers a variety of video clips that are pre-screened before they are allowed to hit the site. There are also plenty of games that children can play that are not only entertaining but also educational. To instill a competitive spirit, there are leader boards that allow them to see how other children fared in the games. If a particular child is creative, they can use the site’s artwork feature to create collages and more to share with friends.
The best part is that Togetherville is free, although they will institute an allowance system in the future. Via the allowance feature, kids can purchase virtual items as well as games. Parents can either buy credits, or children can earn them with certain achievements on the site.
Togetherville is likely to be a hit with both parents and children. Its combination of safety and fun should appeal to both groups, and it can help prevent children from trying to sign up on social networking sites meant for adults.
For more on Togetherville, visit: http://news.cnet.com/8301-19518_3-20005284-238.html