I was recently quite surprised to find out I had some family members and friends who allowed their children to have profiles on Facebook. Checking out the Facebook policy, it is quite clear that this not a social network that wants children under 13 as members. For obvious reasons that can be hashed out on your nightly news show, an open social network may not be the best place for children.
Since Maia is only three, it will be a while before she pops me the “Can I sign up for Facebook?” question. However, for parents dealing with that issue now, a site like FaceChipz.com may be a good solution.
Described as a “secure social network for kids” or “social networking with training wheels,” FaceChipz integrates most communication and sharing features that make Facebook so popular, but only allows kids to communicate with people they have exchanged a FaceChipz token with. Simply purchase a 5 pack of Facechipz at stores like Toys “R” Us, and then register each colorful, emoticon-decorated token online with a unique code. Once the code has been registered, the “Giver” passes each token to a “Receiver” friend who also registers online and confirms the friendship. The token’s code is then invalid so no stranger can be part of the online network. The site also integrates a basic game mechanic with the tokens where each one has a point value attached to it when registered. As for site registration costs, there is a one-time validation cost of $1, simply to prove parental approval.
The features that are sure to appeal to burgeoning social networkers include customizable profile pages, instant messaging, photo sharing, status updates, mood indicators, a “Secret Message” box, an “About Me” section, “My 11′s” list maker and a personal FaceChipz collection viewer. Upcoming features promised include virtual gifts, games, more profile customizations and new FaceChipz token concepts to collect.
FaceChipz was created by parents of tweens who were more comfortable with the idea of their children participating in a closed, safe social network. So, in true entrepreneurial spirit, they created one. On top of working in accordance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, the site creators have a bulleted list of Safety & Privacy Highlights to make you feel comfortable allowing your children on the site. (Read more about the experienced management team here.)
This company is still in its early stages and the site is in beta phase, but I look forward to seeing it grow so that when I do get that inevitable question, I can go pick up a few brightly colored chips and hand them over. Or, if the company has truly been realized by the time and Maia is interested in interacting online, she will instead be asking me for her first pack of FaceChipz.