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!