In today’s world, kids need to learn appropriate online interaction and expression; social networking sites for kids help them to do so safely. Many parents, rightfully so, are wary of social networking sites and of the anonymity of online communications. The key to success is parental guidance and selection of social networking site. Without one, the other can still fail. For detailed advice on talking to kids about internet safety, read James Wither’s article, Educating Schoolchildren About Internet Safety: How to Play Safely on a Virtual Playground.
Rather than forbidding kids to participate in a social networking site, encourage and guide them in choosing a safe social networking site that is designed for kids. These 3 best social networking sites for kids and teens combine multiple safety features with engaging activities (solo and group) that center around their interests.
Yoursphere, created by a concerned mom who was appalled by what she saw happening on myspace and facebook, is a secure online community for kids. No one over the age of 18 may register. Like other social networking sites for kids, parental approval is required, but yoursphere takes it further. Members’ identities are verified and checked against a sex offender database. The community is set up around spheres of interest such as gaming, music, animals, travel and so on. Kids can join the spheres and create content for their member spheres and comment on other members’ content. Yoursphere offers a free 30-day trial. After which, the cost of a 1 year subscription is $39.95 or $59.95 for families with up to 4 participating children.
New Moon Girls
New Moon started as an offline magazine designed to give the creator’s daughters and other young girls a voice. She later realized that the internet and digital media provided an incredible way to reach many young girls around the gobe. So the online magazine and community New Moon Girls was created. It is designed specifically empower, inspire and connect 8-12 year old girls. On the site, girls not only have access to the online magazine, they can chat, create and share their own work. Adults fully moderate all posts and chat. Parents have the right to deny or allow IM (instant messaging), review friend lists, review all transcripts and remove friends. You can preview a sample of the magazine online. The annual membership fee of $29.95 gains your child unlimited online access plus 6 print issues of the New Moon Girls magazine.
Xeco: Elf Island
Although this social networking site is based on a popular trading card game, it focuses on interest in and concern for the environment. Designed for kids aged 8 to 15 years old, it features an eco-friendly virtual world along with chat. The site is fully moderated both by real adults and a dictionary of approved words. The site has also teamed up with non-profits to teach kids about helping others. This month’s project is raising money to buy real computers for kids in children’s hospitals around the country. Kids can help by playing the Good Quest game. At the site, the kids learn tons of info about the planet and its many animal species. They can care for endangered animals and release them back to the wild in an effort to raise money for endangered species. There is a free version of the game as well as benefit rich subscription membership ($5.95/mo; $29.95/6mos; $57.95/yr).
When coupled with parental guidance and support, social networking sites for kids and teens can be an effective training ground for how to effectively join, participate and make use of a global internet community.