Choose the Best Social Networking Site for your Child
When your child or young teen is too young for Facebook but still wants to join a social networking site, you may feel like you have few alternatives. But in the last few years, developers have created several new “safe” social networking alternatives. Often branding themselves as “Facebook for kids”, these sites are designed to expose children to the benefits, but not the dangers, of Facebook.
Most Secure: whatswhat.me
- Benefits: This site uses facial recognition software to ensure that all its users are really children. Parental approval is required to join, and the site has rules and tools in place to fight the problem of social network bullying. Parents of kids who have been bullied on Facebook may find whatswhat.me especially useful. And unless a parent approves, kids can interact only with friends within one grade level of their own. (Note: whatswhat.me used to be a paid member site, but it’s now free!)
- Drawbacks: The site’s facial recognition software makes for a safe alternative to Facebook, but it also means that children must use a webcam to login.
Best For Social Networking Beginners: scuttlepad.com
- Benefits: Designed for children aged 6 to 11, this simple Facebook alternative is a good introduction to social networking. Kids can communicate only using pre-approved words using the site’s “sentence creation” feature. Site administrators approve all shared photos before they are published. There are some games and other extra features.
- Drawbacks: The site can’t really prevent adults from joining, though it can prevent them from sharing pictures of themselves. The site’s goal is to deter adults from joining by limiting the communication kids can have. But these limits also make the site feel boring and restrictive.
Best For Girls: sweetyhigh.com
- Benefits: This girls-only social networking site offers tons of features, including games, status updates, music, and tween-friendly quizzes. The site centers on a web series (think iCarly) that is itself entertaining. But the most appealing part of this site is that it is enough like Facebook that your pre-teen girl will probably enjoy it.
- Drawbacks: Some might find that the sight a little too materialistic: there is an obvious theme of makeup, clothes, and shoes.
Best for Older Kids: imbee.com
- Benefits: A relative newcomer to the field of kids’ social networking, imbee is a polished site that offers kid-friendly video, games, and music — along with more traditional social networking features. Kids can share photos and send messages to each other.
- Drawbacks: Fewer and less obvious parental controls than the other sites on this list. Imbee offers older kids a little more freedom, but there’s still not much trouble to get into on this site.