Between Club Penguin and Facebook, There Is Imbee
Whether their parents like it or not, some children are always going to find ways to use social media, for the same reasons adults are drawn to it -- because they find it intriguing and want to socialize with their peers online. Once concerned parents admit this fact, the best strategy is probably risk management -- which includes channeling their kids' social media activity into relatively safe spaces designed just for them.
On that note, there are already a number of social networks for kids, including Club Penguin, where you can hang out with friends through Antarctic avatars, and Minyanville, a virtual world which helps teach kids about financial responsibility -- but these sites are generally aimed at pre-teens. Meanwhile parents may be leery of letting tweens and younger teens use sites like Facebook and MySpace. In other words, there is a social network gap for the 8-14 crowd (a not inconsiderable cohort, numbering about 14 million or 4.5% of the U .S. population).
That's the target audience for imbee, a free social network for tweens described by its creators as "part YouTube, part Amazon.com, part iTunes...and all imbee." According to the same statement, imbee's mission is to provide a "safe place for kids to chat with friends, upload videos and photos, play games, check out original shorts and web series and get the latest pop culture news." This includes original and exclusive content; kids can also create avatars and participate in interest groups and "fanzones." In the next couple months imbee plans to introduce music downloads and e-commerce through an online retail store.
Underscoring the site's safety mission, imbee launched with a public service announcement about "Abuse of Technology," warning against the perils of cyber-bullying (for both the victims and the bullies).
Before they can use the site, kids have to obtain identity authentication in the form of a credit card from a parent or teacher -- the same process used by the U.S. Postal Service to verify changes of address. Parents can then use built-in security settings to set parameters for their kids' online activity, adjusting the range and types of activity according to age. Parents can also receive a daily report of their kids' activity on imbee.