Are Your Kids Too Young For Social Networking?


Monday, November 14th 2011, 3:03 pm
By: News 9


Social networking is part of our daily lives. But how young is too young to use Facebook and Twitter? The Kaiser Family Foundation says kids between 8 and 18 spend an average of seven or more hours a day using some form of entertainment media. We've found several social media websites geared specifically to kids as young as 7! But are they really safe?

"Kids don't think about all the risks that are involved," OSBI Agent Nick Chaffin said.

Chaffin sees the risks kids take online everyday, as an agent with OSBI's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

"Sometimes kids get into bad situations on the internet and it gets worse and worse because they're scared to talk to their parents," Chaffin said.

And that can get dangerous. One in five U.S. teenagers who regularly logs on to the Internet say they have received an unwanted sexual solicitation on the web.

And we're not going to keep our kids away from computers, so what can we do to keep predators away from them?

We found a host of social networking sites for kids. With Agent Chaffin's help, we tried to create a fake account on Skidekids.com

The first security step, you need an email address. A child would need to use a parents' since you typically have to be 18 to open an email account.

Next, Chaffin posed as an 11 year old boy, much like police say a predator might do. He entered a made up user name and password. It said the account is inactive.

That's because Skidekids requires a one time $5 charge. By having that charge, it requires someone, most likely a parent, to pay.

Chaffin said that makes it that much harder for a predator to get through.

"They make them jump through quite a bit of hoops," Chaffin said.

The biggest safety step for parents: get involved.

"Hang out with your kids, watch them," Chaffin said. "Be on the internet, see what they're doing on the internet."

Agent Chaffin says know your child's passwords and monitor the pages they visit regularly. Conversations that are not age appropriate are a red flag.

Skidekids is constantly monitoring conversations on its site, flagging a number of key words or sentences that aren't right for kids.

In that case, someone will contact that account holder and ultimately could be kicked off the site.

Three Things Parents Can Do To Keep Their Kids Safe Online

1. Know your child's passwords

2. Monitor the pages they visit

3. Look for conversations that are not age appropriate

Ten Safe Social Networking Sites For Kids

1. ScuttlePad Age 7+

a. Social Network with training wheels is safe but limited

2. Togetherville Age 7+

a. Kids' social site connects to parents' Facebook friends

3. WhatsWhat.me Age 7+

a. Tween social network with top-notch safety features

4. Yoursphere Age 9+

a. Kid-only social network promises to block dangerous adults

5. Franktown Rocks Age 10+

a. Music and social networking combine in safe, cool hangout

6. GiantHello Age 10+

a. Facebook-lite gets a lot right, but watch out for games

7. GirlSense Age 10+

a. Safe, creative community for tween fashionistas

8. Sweety High Age 11+

a. Fun, closed social network for girls is strong on privacy

9. Imbee Age 10+

a. Safer social networking if parents stay involved

10. YourCause Age 13+

a. An easy, fun, socially networked way to fundraise.

News 9 tested Skidekids.com for our story.