As has been noted on this site and others, Facebook is very popular among 10-12 yos. This is despite the fact that Facebook specifies in its policies, that one must be at least 13 yo to create a profile on the forum.
The appropriate concern reflected in Facebook’s policy, is that children below a certain age are simply too young to know how to conduct themselves online – and are also more vulnerable to the worst of what is available. However, kids are ever-ingenious - and will find ways to go online, either with or without parental permission.
A New Site for Tweens Offers “Teachable Moments”
A new social forum called “Whatswhat.me” offers to fill this gap – and lead tweens ages 7 through 13 through the process of learning how to use Social Media appropriately. Announced yesterday on PR Newswire, the beta site is available now and parents with tweens are encouraged to check it out.
In a quote included in the press announcement, Vincent Cannistraro, CEO and founder explains his motivation in creating Whatswhat.me: “It concerns me that we teach kids how to cross the street but not how to behave online. We developed WhatsWhat.me (Beta) to give kids a safe, age-appropriate place to have fun and learn important online skills – while providing parents peace of mind.”
Whatswhat.me personnel also cite the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and claim compliance with that standard. COPPA is the US FTC act governing collection of information by websites from children under the age of 13.
What Makes Them Different – And Potentially Safer
Whatswhat.me describes an impressive combination of innovative technology combined with human interaction, all designed to deliver a safer environment for tweens online. Highlights include:
- Use of biometric facial recognition technology – to make sure that tweens logging into the site are who they say they are
- Report It! button which encourages kids to report inappropriate behavior when they see it – and get help
- Professional moderators who step in to help – and, as they describe it, “turn online mistakes into teachable moments”
The site also requires the parent to sign up with the child, follows strict policies for sharing content, and tries for age-appropriate content by restricting “friends” to other children who are in the same grade or within one grade.
Along with the tweens, WhatsWhat.me seeks to educate parents. They have provided a well-developed Parent Resource Center with “information about social networking and keeping … kids safe in cyberspace.”
Our Take On WhatsWhat.Me
At OSS, we think that is it a BRILLIANT idea to encourage tween interest in Social Media – and teach them how to use it appropriately in a safe, moderated, responsive environment. Kids at this age respond well to rules. Teaching them the ‘rules of the road’ should help to prepare them better, for unmoderated SM interaction in their teens and later. We applaud the introduction of this new forum and we hope for its success, and for the success of more forums and tools like this for this age-group.
If you are interested in WhatsWhat.me, the beta site is active and asking for registrations now. You must have a webcam in your computer to use the site. The forum charges a modest fee for its services, of $3.95 per month or $29.95 per year.