As an online student, your child knows the value of using the web to socialize. In virtual school, he or she has the opportunity to connect with classmates and friends during LiveLesson® class sessions, on school discussion boards, and even through online clubs. So it’s only natural for your tech-savvy student to want to nurture his or her social life through social networking.
Of course the most popular social networks—Facebook and Twitter—require all users to be at least 13 years old, thanks to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998. Children under age 13 often don’t know enough about maintaining a safe online presence to avoid threats such as online predators or cyberbullying.
The answer is yes if you introduce your student to safe social networks. Designed for kids ages 13 and under, these social networks allow students to connect with friends in a safe environment, where parents are encouraged to supervise their online activity. These social networks can also help students develop their social, communication, and technology skills.
Using these networks presents a great opportunity to teach your student online safety and online etiquette. Remember to limit your child’s social networking time, and make sure your student has your approval before he or she adds friends, posts information, or accesses a new game or app. Parental involvement is always important—make sure your students know that you are a team and that your goal is for them to be safe while exploring an important element of the digital world where they are growing up.
Check out this list of safe social networks to find one your student likes.
Ohanarama is a game site designed for the whole family. Parents have the option to log in through their Facebook account or by registering. With your approval, your child can challenge other families on the website to games.
More of a game than a social network, Club Penguin introduces children to avatars in the form of penguin characters, which they can use to play games in an online community. The site has parental controls, and the chat feature filters conversations, allowing users to choose from pre-approved phrases.
On Everloop, an “EverCrew” is designated to monitor and filter chats, posts, videos, and photos. Kids can join different “loops” to connect with users who share the same interests in music, movies, nature, sports, and more.
This site allows kids to upload and comment on videos, which can focus on reviews of books, games, TV shows, and more. A site moderator approves all videos and comments before they are posted.
Yoursphere offers contests, rewards, games, a virtual world, and more to children under age 18. Check out Yoursphere’s sister website on safety information for parents, called YoursphereForParents.com.
Grom Social is a newer social network developed by 11-year-old Zachary Mark and his family. Zachary decided to create his own social network because he wasn’t old enough to join Facebook. The network also has a word filter suppressing profanity and is a bully-free zone. It requires approval for users over 16 to join. Check out the Parents’ Q&A section for more information.
This site is similar to Facebook, but kids cannot be contacted by strangers. They can only connect with real-life friends by sending a code in person or through email. GiantHello offers a variety of games, but parents should monitor the games their kids choose.
Franktown Rocks is a multiplayer online game that allows kids to listen to popular approved music. Users can create characters and build houses, drive cars, play games, and more.
Sweety High is a social network for girls that offers parental controls and content moderation. The site focuses on shopping, fashion, and celebrities.
Go to CommonSenseMedia.org for more detailed website reviews.
Does your child use any other safe social networks? We’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments below.