At a time when Facebook and Google are encountering increased concerns about how they treat users' information, a social networking start-up is targeting Internet-savvy children and their concerned parents.
Togetherville, which Thursday entered public beta, is a free social networking site designed for children younger than 13; the debut, however, is targeted at children 10 and younger.
Within the site, each child inhabits a neighborhood based on existing personal relationships. Kids can communicate with real-world friends and relatives, play games, watch videos, send and receive gifts, and create art in the ad-free environment, according to the site. Children can use pre-screened "quips" to update their status.
Parents use their Facebook logins to create their children's accounts, and Togetherville then identifies which Facebook friends and kids also use Togetherville. Parents then allow specific parents and children into their offspring's neighborhood or invite others to join. Children's neighborhood friends are split between kids and grownups.
“The Internet is the greatest learning tool ever created, but many parents are reluctant to let their child explore for a variety of reasons. By restricting Internet usage for kids under 13, we’re missing an important opportunity to help them develop the online social skills they need in today’s wired world,” said Mandeep Singh Dhillon, co-founder and CEO of Togetherville, Inc., and a father of three children under 10.
“We built Togetherville using the spirit of the neighborhoods most of us remember when we were kids – where everyone knows everyone else and [watched] out for each other. In Togetherville, parents have peace of mind that their kids are playing with people they know and trust and kids have fun while learning the tools they need to become good digital citizens.”
Children can earn badges in recognition of good behavior. In addition, kids can collect Togetherville allowance from adults for spending on virtual goods, games and gifts. The allowance and premium gifts are slated to become available by the summer.
Togetherville entered private beta in the fourth quarter of 2009. It received the TRUSTe COPPA web privacy seal that certifies the site complies with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and keeps kids’ information safe.