On paper, Togetherville.com sounds like the social network that Mr. Rogers would have created. The site, which launched last night, is looking to provide a safe environment for children to become “digital citizens” and experience what it’s like to be a member of a social network. Unlike popular sites like Facebook and MySpace (which have age requirements of 13 and 14, respectively), this site puts parents in charge and lets them pick out the friends that their kids can talk to online in order to provide a safer environment.
“Togetherville allows parents to build a social circle for their children based on their own collection of Facebook friends,” The New York Times reports. “The children can then interact with the children of their parents’ friends, and specific adults that their parents have chosen, in a semiprivate environment.” In other words, it’s like an online version of play dates arranged by your parents.
According to the site’s description, the goal of Togetherville is to provide more of a “neighborhood” feel. The founder of the site, Mandeep Singh Dhillon, emphasized this fact in an interview today with CNN. "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,” he said.Togetherville also features games, tools to make designs and "kid-safe messaging."
There are a couple of other sites out there that hope to expose kids to social networks. There is the ridiculous example of Twoddler, which is supposed to be a Twitter account for very young kids, and then there is Club Penguin, which is also targeted at children. However, as Togetherville notes on its Twitter page, Club Penguin allows kids to remain anonymous, while Togetherville requires users to give their real names, just like the big kids have to do on Facebook.