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Togetherville: social network for a much younger set

Introducing, Togetherville, Facebook with training wheels

A kind of junior Facebook, Togetherville offers parents a way to help their kids set up safe networks among their own selected contacts. The site is designed to provide kid-safe communication, through privacy controls, and a parent-managed friend list. Rather than sending direct friend requests, children filter requests through their parents.  Parents decide whether to consent and then forward an invitation.

Because of the tight, parent-monitored environment, kids are actually encouraged to keep their own identities and develop real-life relationships.

The site offers the six to ten set opportunities to:

Play Games – Super fun or super educational, Togetherville apps are kid-size and ad free. Kids can save their favorites, earn points by playing, and see how they rank against their friends!
Create Artwork – Self-expression is an important part of being a child. In Togetherville, kids can design logos, cards and collages to display on their profile or share with friends and family.
Watch Videos – The site offers more than 2000 prescreened videos.  The first one I chose to view was the Fart Dance. 
Say "Hi!" – Drop-down text messages, called "quips", express thoughts and feelings and allow kids to safely comment on each others’ game scores and creative work and send messages to grownups. Kids can even suggest their own for future use.

Yeah, I know, little kids need to be networking offline and face-to-face and in the fresh spring air.

But I have to give the Togetherville team credit for recognizing that it is important early on to share with younger children how to

use technology to connect with the important people in their lives – safely. And those important people show them how to act responsibly online. Whether a parent, aunt, grandparent or family friend, take this role seriously and participate in the online neighborhoods of kids in your life.

Togetherville currently hosts more than 2,000 videos and 34 games and kids may save and share content or their own creations.

I recently signed up with a fictional daughter. (I really do have one, but she is 28 and not all that interested.)

I watched the Fart Dance, though I might have chosen a number of other more educational and enlightening videos. I played a tetris-like game, dressed an avatar, made a banner and a card with the library of images and stamps, saved stuff in my Trunk, and left a quip for my parents. I had the choice of a variety pull-down quip options, but chose to write my own.  My original quip took only a couple of minutes to approve.  Kinda like in Facebook, my recent activities were visible to others in My Neighborhood.  I had no friends icon sad Togetherville: social network for a much younger set , so I couldn’t really see what they were doing.

Though I didn’t play around with it, it seems that adults can give kids in Togetherville an allowance to spend on premium virtual items and apps.

Let’s keep an eye on this one.  If Togetherville becomes sticky I can see how this could be lots of fun for kids, especially if all their friends and relatives join.  I wonder if the site will allow student-teacher interaction.

I did wish for few more opportunities for originality.  I wanted more art options beyond the canned libraries. And I yearned for far more options in that avatar fashion game!

Here are a few scenes from Togetherville:

togethervilleworld Togetherville: social network for a much younger set

together2 Togetherville: social network for a much younger settogether3 Togetherville: social network for a much younger set

together5 Togetherville: social network for a much younger settogether7 Togetherville: social network for a much younger set

together9 Togetherville: social network for a much younger setquip Togetherville: social network for a much younger set

togetherparents Togetherville: social network for a much younger set

share save 171 16 Togetherville: social network for a much younger set
Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is the teacher-librarian at Springfield Township High School, a technology writer, and a blogger. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

Comments

  1. Julie says:

    I found the TOS scary.

    “Any materials, information, communications or ideas that you upload, communicate or otherwise transmit or post to us, the site, your Friends, other Parents or Children (through Togetherville) or the Services by any means (“User Content”) will be treated as non-confidential and non-proprietary, and may be disseminated or used by us for any purpose whatsoever, including, but not limited to, quality control and professional development, as well as for developing, manufacturing, and marketing our current and/or future Services. By uploading or otherwise making available any User Content, you automatically grant and/or warrant that the owner has granted to us the perpetual royalty-free, non-exclusive, worldwide right and license to use, reproduce, modify, publish, distribute, perform, display, and transmit the User Content for any purpose. You agree that we may record all or any part of any Services (including voice or video chat communications) for quality control and other purposes. We reserve the right to review the Services for any purpose. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary above, you agree that we own all physical or electronic records of Services and all comments that you may provide to us on or through the site, any other means as a part of user satisfaction or other similar surveys, and that these Terms shall be deemed an irrevocable assignment of all such transcripts and comments, each portion thereof and all intellectual property rights therein to us.”

    Would love your expert opinion on this.

  2. joycevalenza says:

    I am not an expert, Julie. I try to report on trends. But wow, that does seem like an invasive/intrusive TOS for a site that values privacy. I hope that the owners read your comment and respond.

  3. Julie says:

    Thanks, Joyce. I was hoping they would respond. Oh well.

  4. Gagan says:

    Hi – I am Gagan from the Togetherville design team. I came across your post and wanted to share some thoughts on the Togetherville Terms of Service (TOS).

    These TOS were written by our lawyers and supposed to make things more clear. Our apologies if they caused any confusion. The goal in having precisely worded terms of service is to keep both the users and the Togetherville team safe. ( There are not hidden plans for world domination in the TOS! :) )

    Here are some clarifications I wanted to give on my behalf:

    Togetherville is a service designed to allow kids to have a safe, age-appropriate interaction. It is important to note that we not an email or personal communications systems where confidential and proprietary information transfer is common. That is not what Togetherville is for. Nothing in our service is intended to give the impression that confidential conversations or proprietary materials should be shared here. As is the nature of social networks, anything you create is shared and added upon by connections, so personal and proprietary information should not be shared.

    Regarding the “disseminate” and “uploading or making content” clauses, we want the right to share certain creations that do not have personally identifiable information as part of our marketing materials. This helps us to show new users the type of creations that can be made and shared in Togetherville. These rights are non-exclusive, i.e. we are not taking your rights away, we just share them with you now. (I think we can be given a little room here, after all we designed and built the the whole system! )

    The last clauses are related to our ability to keep records for quality assurance. For instance, my kid creates a piece of digital art using one of the tools and shares it on his profile. Another kid in the network uses it to make a collage. Now for some reason my kid deletes his account. Who owns it now? Should we delete the second collage? Who owns the comments that were made? Since we are building and maintaining the system – It is much more clear to have for all of us to have the terms of service this way.

    The terms of service are not intended to deny our users their rights, nor are they intended to broaden Togetherville’s rights over a user’s property. The TOS try to make it clear, among other things, that this is not a confidential communications platform, we would like to utilize some creations for marketing purposes and we want to maintain records for quality assurance. In lawyer-speak all this may sound bad, but it is not intended to be anything other than to clarify the standard. We are here to help create online platform to for families and to nurture their relationships, not to crowd-source children creations.

    As a Togetherville designer, I am always seeking user feedback and input, so I appreciate your time in sharing your concern. The team is focused on trying to deliver the most complete safe and social experience to young children in a unique way, and will continue to strive to make our services better and better.

  5. Julie says:

    I still think parents should be leery of any company that says that “you automatically grant and/or warrant that the owner has granted to us the perpetual royalty-free, non-exclusive, worldwide right and license to use, reproduce, modify, publish, distribute, perform, display, and transmit the User Content for any purpose. You agree that we may record all or any part of any Services (including voice or video chat communications) for quality control and other purposes.”

    I sure don’t want my child’s images and thoughts used or shared by a company at their discretion for whatever purpose they wish without my permission.

    I see other problems with the setup of this site, but that’s the main one.

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