An CNN article about a new social networking site for kids, Togetherville, starts like this:
One of the challenges for the newest generation is how to gain fluency in online networking without being able to draw on large, diverse social networks of their own.
Really? I though the challenges of the newest generation included things like war, national debt, and global warming. Fluency in online networking? Not so worried about that.
But someone is, and so Togetherville was born. I’ll give them this — it sounds so much age-appropriate than letting kids have their own Facebook accounts.
“We built Togetherville using the spirit of the neighborhoods most of us remember when we were kids,” said co-founder, CEO, and parent Mandeep Singh Dhillon, “where everyone knows everyone else and watches 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.”
Forget good digital citizens — at ages 6 to 10, kids are still learning how to be good citizens in general. And that can’t learn that sitting in front of a computer playing a dummed down version of Farmville. Togetherville lets kids earn points by watching videos, playing games, or creating art, but this summer they might add Allowance — a feature that allows parents to put money into an account for kids to use on games and gifts.
Since even experts can’t decide whether social networking sites are good for kids, I’m going to go with my gut on this one: Kids need to be out socializing, not inside social networking. I’d like my kids to learn real life emotional intimacy before they start pursuing online friendships. You know how we’re always saying that kids grow up too fast? That two-year-olds don’t belong in bikinis and that little girls shouldn’t bump and grind to “Single Ladies?” This feels a little like that: Giving kids a way to enjoy an adult-sized activity, even if that activity isn’t entirely appropriate.
Do you agree with me? Or should I have been a mother back in the 70s when the only screen time kids could get beyond TV was Pong?