Togetherville: bringing children to social networking

Posted by Mike Luttrell

When it comes to social networking, Facebook pretty much has a stronghold on everything...well, except for the young ones out there who cannot sign up due to the site's age restriction.

Enter Togetherville.com, a new social networking site that launched its beta version this week. It allows the little tykes out there to have their very first social networking account, with parents required to sign up as a supervisor on the account.

Developing such a site is logistical mayhem, as there are federal laws that make a site targeting under-13 users a lot more difficult. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) created all sorts of limits on what kind of personal data Web site owners can and can not collect from child users.

Togetherville is completely compliant with COPPA, and focuses on letting children talk and play games with their friends.

"We built Togetherville  using the spirit of the neighborhoods most of us remember when we were kids, where everyone knows everyone else and watches out for each other," said Mandeep Singh Dhillon, the CEO of the new Internet start-up.

The site is completely ad-free, and parents have full access to what their children are doing on the site. Lots of safety measures have been put into place. Where Togetherville hopes to earn its profits is through micro transactions: parents fund their children's accounts with virtual dollars that can be used to buy games and other digital goods.

In a CNN story, co-director of Connect Safely, Anne Collier, said it was a good step for kids: "Togetherville is social-networking training wheels for families. "It models safe social-Web use for kids and shows even parents who are already keen Facebook users how social networking works best in the family context."

After all, how else are the Greyson Chances of the world going to get the know-how to interact in the grown-up world of social networking?