If you’re a Facebooking mom or dad, chances are you’ve heard something about Togetherville during the last week. This free, Facebook-esque social network for children ages 6-10 launched May 18. Its purpose? To “build good digital citizens,” says Togetherville Founder and CEO Mandeep Dhillon in The Technology Chronicle.
Togetherville offers a secure network through which kids can interact and share information with their “neighborhood” of friends and family, as well as practice social networking skills until they come of “Facebook age.” Parents have complete oversight. No one unauthorized by you, the parent, can contact your child. Search engines can’t access your child’s information either. In a world where online privacy is becoming scarcer every day, this is crucial.
My 8-year-old daughter, Katie, gladly volunteered her services so she and I could test drive Togetherville and report our experiences back to you.
First of all, you need a Facebook account in order to set up your child’s Togetherville account—for now. Non-Facebook users have the option of providing their email address and the company will contact you when Togetherville is ready for non-Facebook users.
A Facebook login is required because it enables a secure, one-click login; prevents the need for a separate email and password every time you log in; builds your child’s online “neighborhood” from friends you and your child already know; and enables you, the parent, to share your child’s information with family and friends on your Facebook page. Togetherville does not, however, post any Togetherville activity on Facebook without your consent.
The first step is to set up your child’s profile. This involves choosing a username and password, entering your child’s birthday, and uploading a profile picture of your child (if you choose to; it’s not required).
Next, your child must complete five social networking activities to achieve their “Togetherville Passport.” Katie began by creating a logo with fun fonts, icons and colors. Second, she watched a kid-friendly video (there are many to choose from but they are all pretty tame). Third, she chose a game to play (“Crazy Taxi”). Fourth, she sent her dear mother a gift (“Lovely Latte”). And fifth, she posted a quip (aka “status”). Her quip: “Homework is evil.”
Another important Togetherville fact to know: all quips are pre-written but there are a wide variety to choose from. A few examples:
“When I say space bar, you better jump!”
“Love Animals? Don’t Litter!”
And my favorite: “If mom’s not happy, nobody’s happy!”
Choosing from a set of pre-written quips enables Togetherville members to select a phrase that expresses the way they feel, but prevents uninhibited status posts that could contain problematic content, such as bad language.
Once Katie obtained her Togetherville Passport, she could navigate the site freely. Activity falls under three categories: create, play and watch. Members can also “like” or delete a friends’ quips or activities, and view other Togetherville members’ game scores to see how their scores measure up.
Our Analysis: Thumbs Up
All in all, Togetherville appears to provide a safe, controlled way of allowing your child to explore the world of social networking so Facebook won’t be so unfamiliar when/if you decide to allow him or her to join it. (Keep in mind, Facebook users must be 13 years old in order to set up an account.)
We also like it because older siblings with Facebook accounts can use their login to share information with younger siblings on Togetherville, while maintaining their Facebook activity separately. We’d like to hear from you about Togethervile. Check it out and let us know what you and your child think.