Other Choices: GiantHello, WhatsWhat.me, Everloop
Education: There isn't much -- one section has a link for an editing game and books, but both aren't active yet.
Synopsis: Safe social networking for kids under 13.
Common Sense Rates It:
Parents need to know
Parents need to know that this social networking site has made some serious efforts to ensure kids have a safe experience. Users can't friend strangers through the site; they need to get a randomly generated code for each friend they invite to join -- and send it via text or print it out and bring the code to school.
- Families can talk about why it's safer for a social networking site to only let you chat and share things with friends you know from school and other places. Why might it be a bad idea to friend a stranger on another site that doesn't have any restrictions?
- Families can talk social networking sites like Facebook and whether they guard the safety of kids, especially kids under 13. Check out Common Sense Media's Facebook for Parents tipsheet.
- Even though you're just talking to friends you know on Kidsocial, it's still not a good idea to say anything hurtful or mean. What common courtesies should you follow when posting comments and other things for friends? How should you react if someone says something that makes you feel uncomfortable?
What's the story?
Kidsocial has social networking down to a near science -- kids under 13 can only friend real-life acquaintances by giving them a code, and a parent needs to approve their account before kids can communicate. However, while the safeguarded social networking will likely be a big draw, some parents may not be crazy about the site's prominent product placement -- most sections are centered around brands like Slinky. Several sections contain action, racing, and other games; but aside from that, there really isn't much to keep kids interested.
Is it any good?
Many social networking sites try to safeguard kids under 13, with mixed results -- but on most counts, KIDSOCIAL gets it right. Users who are over 13 can add friends using their Facebook account, but younger kids are required to text or print out a code for each friend they invite. They can play games, watch TV, or listen to tunes without getting parental approval. However, before kids under 13 post photos or other items, parents -- who can also register to monitor their kids' site activity -- need to verify and approve their child's account. And kids can't fool the system by entering their own email address during registration: A credit card is required to verify the account (the charge is less than $1 but proves an adult is giving the OK).
The Good Stuff
Messages: Some sections represent positivity-focused brands like Jabbersmack, which says it aims to remind kids to focus on friends and not "money or gadgets or material stuff." Games also feature encouraging notes about performance.
Educational Value: There isn't much -- one section has a link for an editing game and books, but both aren't active yet.
What to watch out for
Violence Although the site's YouTube access is supposed to involve a strict filter, entering words like "stabbing" will produce some pretty violent videos; kids can also click through from the Miniclip Kidsocial section to Miniclip's main site, which features gory zombie and other games.
Sex: Words like "porn" and "sex" don't produce any results in a search on the site's YouTube section, but kids can still access videos with iffy content like streakers.
Language: The site's Grooveshark music player lets kids download pretty much any song they enter -- including raunchy tunes that contain swear words.
Consumerism: Kids can purchase $500 in Playcash, the site currency used to buy avatar and other items, for $5, or by $5,000 for $50; many of the sections are based on products like Slinkies and Zoobies Pets.
Drinking, drugs & smoking: A search for "pot" turns up marijuana-related YouTube videos; "drunk" produces clips with intoxicated people falling.