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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

Social Networking for Pre-Teens

Parts of this article are reproduced with the kind permission of Web Ad.vantage

As parents, we have a vested interest in fully understanding social media and its implications for our children. Today’s kids are getting online at very early ages and they’re eager to learn about, explore, and socialize with the world beyond their living rooms.

While our pre-teens may be too young for Facebook and MySpace, their enthusiasm to interact online is still there. Given the right environment and proper parental supervision, social networking at a younger age can still be a fun experience, and help our children develop skills and online behavior that will help them in later years.

Luckily, the number of pre-teen and family-friendly social media sites is on the rise. Here are a few that are worth a look
Glubble is a free, family social networking site, described as a “unique Family Timeline to share photos and events.” At Glubble you set up a family profile and a separate profile for your kids. Each child has his or her own Kids Page to customize with favorite and approved web sites, family chat-ability, and photo sharing. To access the Kids Page feature there is a safe and quick software download. All information is private and only shared by you with known family and friends. As a kids social networking site, Glubble is recommended for children 5 to 12 years.
• About Glubble

Whyville is a virtual world where children can chat, play, and have fun. The site is free and geared towards children aged 8 to 14 years. The primary focus is education but in a fun and stimulating environment. There are several social media aspects, including real-time chatting capability. Like other social networking sites for kids, you can earn ‘currency’ to spend on various activities, including avatar upgrades and purchasing food and services. The set-up is not for young children but, once you’re up and running, Whyville will keep kids entertained and even teach them a few things along the way!
• About Whyville

Webkinz is an online community for kids with a unique premise: Kids buy Webkinz – lovable plush pet animals – at toy stores or other real world outlets and then unlock a virtual world for their pet using a unique secret code. Webkinz are hugely popular with both young and older children, because they can interact with and care for their new pet both on- and off-line. Additional online content includes games, trivia, crafts, and more. Parents can manage their child’s time spent in the Webkinz world and monitor chat usage, but be prepared for pleas for additional Webkinz every time you come walk into a toy store!
• Webkinz FAQs

Disney’s Club Penguin is a snow covered virtual world community for kids 6 to 14 years of age, in which they create their own Penguin Avatar. It’s free to play, chat, and join in some activities, but a membership fee which ranges from $5.95/month to $57.95/year will guarantee upgrades and access to more activities and events happening on the island. A part of the membership proceeds are used to support efforts to improve the lives of children and families around the world. Club Penguin also provides educational and creative tools to challenge kids, as well as filtered and pre-approved chat.
• About Club Penguin

Handipoints is a safe, family-oriented virtual community, where kids do real chores to earn virtual or real world rewards. There’s also a virtual world called HandiLand, where kids can use their adopted cartoon cat to roam around the site and talk to their friends. Parents use the provided ‘parenting tools’ to assign chores, reward points, and check off tasks. This is a fun and easy way to teach saving and responsible habits while keeping kids engaged and motivated. This virtual community is for kids 6 to 12. Upgrading to the “Cool Cats Club” for just $5.95/ month gets you even more fun!
• Handipoints – How It Works

Billed as the Web’s premier “edu-tainment” venue, KidzClix is a subscription-based online community aimed at kids, parents, and teachers, with a world of fun and educational activities to explore. The members’ section of the site features online forums, chat rooms, message boards, and an online networking space called KidzConnect.  All of these features are members-only, and are advertised as being heavily moderated to ensure a safe Web experience for children. Created by the staff at The Center for the Gifted, the KidzClix mission is to provide children of elementary and middle school age with activities that strive “to inspire critical and creative thinking, foster originality, and develop imaginations.”  Membership is $6.95/month.
• About KidzClix

Described as a “social network for babies,” Totspot is a free, family- and kid-friendly site where parents can set-up an account and create profiles and web pages for each of their children. Like Facebook, you can share photos and information about what your kids are doing by updating their “status.” You can track your child’s “firsts,” upload photos and videos, keep journals, and join groups where you can blog and comment. This site is mainly for parents to keep in touch with family and friends they already know versus a social media site for children to network. TotSpot has some great features, account set-up is easy, customization is fun, and security and privacy settings are first-class.
• About TotSpot

Web Ad.vantage is a full-service online marketing company with core competencies in search engine optimization, PPC Campaign Management and online media buying. The agency specializes in marketing to working mothers, among other niche verticals.

Comment by bracee, posted 8/8/2009, 8:12 PM:

yeah hi um im a preteen and im looking for preteen sites LIKE facebook but w/o all the unnecessary applications. the closest I have is Plaxo and I looked thru these sites...yea the only one that sounds interesting is Glubber and im not even joining. listen i have webkinz and clubpenguin and Cp is not the best and Webkinzisnt either. CP is too much chat and Webkinz is too LESS chat. try doing something more like facebook, less like CP and less like Webkinz. thats what im looking for!
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