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.
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 , 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: