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The race to become the Facebook for kids

If you think younger kids are not interested in social networking, think again. Fourth and fifth graders may not be writing on walls or uploading video, but they are still checking in with their buddies on sites like Club Penguin and Webkinz.

Now, one popular kids’ site is hoping to tap into that interest and provide the under-13s with something a little closer to the Facebook experience.

Moshi Monsters, a site that lets children adopt a monster and play games, has just announced that it has reached the 15 million mark in terms of registered users. Although that’s well behind the leaders, Moshi Monsters is growing quickly. The site’s share of the U.S. market is showing a 20 fold increase over a year ago.

The site itself is fresh and colorful, and the so-called monsters are actually pretty adorable. Kids can collect pets for their monsters, play educational games, and exchange messages with friends. The site sells merchandise, as well as $5.95 per month subscriptions that give members exclusive access to all sorts of extras.

The site’s London-based founder, Michael Smith, wants to expand Moshi Monsters and “create a Facebook for kids”. Although Facebook only really started to take off when they partnered with outside developers, Smith is content to go it alone – for now. “We’re still in the early days, but we might consider opening it up to third parties,” he said.

The site currently allows what it calls “restricted social networking features”. Kids can invite friends into their network if they know the other child’s screen name. Plus, their own screen name and pet monster can be displayed if they win one of the site’s competitions. Smith emphasizes that any expansion of the social networking features would be strictly controlled.   

Meanwhile, Moshi Monsters is already branching out into the real world. It recently held a party for fans in London and Smith is looking to extend the merchandizing into trading cards, books and video games. He clearly believes there is lots of hidden potential in the 7 to 12-year-old pre-Facebook crowd: “The kids’ space is still very much under the radar. Unless you’ve got kids yourself, you don’t realize.”

Are your kids into Moshi Monsters or similar “friend” sites? Are you comfortable with these sites expanding the social networking side?  Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!

Comment by lance fletcher, posted 4/26/2012, 9:45 AM:

since my daughter aged 7 has been on mushi monsters on her tablet i have noticed two porn downloads one in video format the other a website called 8ball both very hard core. i know my daughter did not look for these as she needs me to log in to moshi so someone is sending her links i will be monitoring this site very closely and have discussed dangers with my daughter
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