There's no avoiding social networking today, and keeping kids safe on social networking sites can be a complicated prospect. As kids get older parents have to decide when and how to hand over more responsibility for their actions online. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and most mainstream social media sites are off limits for kids under 13 because of Federal regulations, but there are a few alternatives geared just for young kids and their parents that can help teach children how to handle their lives online.
These sites include strict registration rules and tools for parents to stay involved, so they can be a good way to let kids have some social connections online in a safe, controlled environment. Always check out a site yourself before allowing your child to set up a profile and keep an eye on what your child shares and accesses using a parental control tool and personal supervision.
Here, we break down some of the best software and sites for kids who are too young to join mainstream sites.
At this age, parents should also begin the conversation about what is and is not safe to share online, including giving guidelines for what to do about bullying or inappropriate content. Young children probably don't need too much detail about the dangers of the Internet, but parents should keep a close eye on their activities and make online activity an open conversation at home. Parental control software like Net Nanny can help with this conversation and the necessary monitoring by filtering content, blocking inappropriate sites, and reporting any worrying activity to parents. If you're concerned about time management, many parental control software tools will also let you dictate a specific internet time limit for your child or only allow access during particular windows.
For 7 to 9-year-olds, check out:
Tweens are still too young to join Facebook, but they're ready for a little more practice using the internet responsibly. At this age, parents should take the time to talk to kids in more detail about what is and is not appropriate online, and what to do if they encounter behavior or material that makes them uncomfortable. Most parental control software allows you to adjust for the age of the child, and it may be time to change the settings to account for a slightly older child. This is a prime age for bullying behavior, so keep a close eye out for potential problems on that front.
Many of the sites recommended for younger kids should be good for tweens as well, though some kids may be growing out of them. In addition to the list above, there are a few sites aimed straight at this age group.
For 10 to 12-year-olds, check out: