“Safe” social software

With an increasing number of teachers and kids experimenting with the use of blogs and wikis there is a new wave of concern being expressed concerning the issues of privacy and safety of kids in these environments. And quite rightly too – the fact is that there is a lot of objectionable material that can be accessed on the web, and, unfortnately, there are predators who use these environments to connect with kids. This concern is being expressed now at the highest levels – as can be seen in the recent US debate over student use of “MySpace”. But with over 78 million users there is a bigger picture that needs addressing in a better way than simply banning it.


Fortunately there are a number of groups who are busy working on this issue – leading to the development of a range of social environments that offer greater levels of online safety and privacy. One example is WhyVille , an on-line community dedicated to learning through exploration and communication. This site has a funky kid-friendly interface, and is loaded with places inside where kids can participate in high quality, learner-centred learning experiences from across the curriculum. If you haven’t got time to create your own login and look around you can take the tour from the teacher’s page which is pretty informative.


Another example to look out for is Imbee which will go live later this year, is designed to offer a safe place for kids as young as 8 and 9 years old to create Web logs and chat with friends. Imbee will have a rigorous screening process to ensure that users are who they say they are, and will also be a closed site not accessible by the larger Web. Imbee is the creation of IndustriousKid , a company conceived of about six months ago by serial entrepreneur Jeanette Symons, a founder of two telecommunications companies in the US.

I’m sure other products like this will soon appear on the market – providing schools and teachers with safe alternatives for kids to some of the more “open” social networking environments. And it’s not only schools and teachers who are interested in these issues – parents are too:


The Family 2.0 site is worth a visit to see the sorts of things being explored and discussed as alternatives for our kids, while the News.Com article titled Here come the Family 2.0 sites is worth a read also for what is says about family networking sites – here are some they list:

  • Myheritage.com is a free facial recognition site offering photos and genealogy launching this month.
  • Famundo is a combination free and pay site coming this summer that offers calendar sharing, birthday reminders and vacation planning.
  • Amiglia is a combination free and pay site in beta that offers photo sharing, dynamic family trees and kid photo games.
  • Ourstory is a free site in beta that creates timelines with life experiences, photos and video.
  • Zamily is a free site that launched in May offering all things social networking for the family.
  • Famoodle is a free site that debuted in May offering photo and event sharing, family networking and news.
  • Cingo is a free beta site offering private and shared calendars, to-do lists, news and movies.
  • Familyroutes is a free beta site that offers family blogging and photo sharing.

All of these sites aim to maintain the principles of the read/write web – sharing, collaborating, participation etc. No doubt we’ll see plenty of development of this sort of software to overcome current limitations – but the future is promising!

8 thoughts on ““Safe” social software

  1. Hi Derek,
    Always good to read your blog. With the great many social environments available, is there one that you could recommend for a group of rural principals who may want to share documents etc in real time. I have been pointed to Breeze software as an option. What would you recommend? It’s needs to be very cost effective…as in free if possible.

  2. Hi Gill
    most of the “social software” applications mentioned operate in the asyncronous realm, and are designed for individuals to access etc in their own time, independent of anyone else.
    For the sort of thing you are talking about most of the software I’ve used tends to be commercial and therefore costs, eg Breeze, eLuminate etc.
    The MoE currently has a Breeze license which is being used by some schools – you may be able to use that?

  3. Wow & the list keeps growing! This harks back to some of the discussions we had a TUANZ earlier in the year when teachers expressed concerns about a safe online environment for our kids. The school blogs i was showcasing were using blogger.com and though this was a small group of students that were closely monitored and comments were moderated there was still that button at the top that say Next Blog & could go anywhere… Interest amongst our teachers is growing and my nxt mission is to investigate ‘safe’ blogging tools so thanks for these links.
    Gill you might want to look at using something like Interact for sharing documents and communicating online – it is freely available to ICTPD clusters & reasonably priced -likely if you are small rural schools then one of you may have a new SmartNet server courtesy of the mOe – Interact can be hosted directly on your own SmartNet server (an even cheaper option) Talk to Glen – Glen.Davies@cce.ac.nz
    You can visit our site to see how we use it http://centre4.interact.ac.nz/spaces/space.php?space_key=177&javascript=1 (sorry about the link i tried to get it to link but my tags don’t work…)- not much happens here in real time because we see each other a lot but it could if we wanted it to using the chatroom & forum facilities. I have also just introduced my TaraNet VC students and teachers to an Interact space so it will be interesting to see how they make use of this space to support their learning community.

  4. As Rachel says the list keeps growing – both family oriented and otherwise. I would say that, because kids are social and territorial, they will always tend to move into new social networking worlds rather than (or as well as) the safer, moderated networking sites. Myspace will be oldschool, and newer sites with newer features will emerge, and the associated issues as referred to by Derek will continue to be issues. It’s like the real world – it can be exciting, unsafe, and as adults and parents we have the responsibility to assist kids in making appropriate decisions.

  5. Hi Derek

    As always, it’s great to see what you come up with in relation to e-learning – plenty more sites and ideas to follow up! I’ve had students enrolled in Whyville since the eSection days and am amazed at some of the science challenges they have been involved in. It’s particularly suited to older primary or secondary students and there are so many different choices and challenges to work on over time.

    OK … off to check out a few more of your links now!

  6. Hi Derek,

    So great to find your blog on education and technology…and more people talking about safety and our children.

    Hope to see you over at Talking Tech on Family 2.0

  7. also thanks for the great post on Family 2.0… I was knee deep checking out Whyville and then I just now scrolled down to see your post pointing to me site. On Whyville, I saw this site before and really love the homepage. Thanks again for the great mention 🙂

    Rachel Cook

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