SOURCE: Togetherville

Togetherville

May 19, 2010 08:00 ET

Togetherville™ Launches New Social Website With Safe Online Neighborhoods for Kids -- and Adults

Uses Parents' Facebook® Network to Build Unique Neighborhoods for Kids 6-10 With Real-World Friends and Family

PALO ALTO, CA--(Marketwire - May 19, 2010) - For parents of elementary school-aged children who have struggled with helping their kids explore the Internet and social networking while making sure they access age-appropriate content and stay safe, there is now an easy solution -- Togetherville.com. Now available in public beta, Togetherville™ is a new type of online community for families whose kids are too young for Facebook® where kids get the experience of adult social networking in a fun, age-appropriate environment and parents and other trusted adults get in on the act.

In Togetherville, kids ages 6 to 10 get their very own free online neighborhood and login to engage with real-world friends, play games, watch videos and create art in an ad-free environment. And, parents and other approved grownups have their own site section where they login to communicate with their child and other kids they know. This makes online interactions easy, whether a parent is in the next room, at work or traveling halfway around the world.

There are no strangers, no avatars and no anonymous usernames in a Togetherville neighborhood. Only a parent can create a child's account, and parents are encouraged to use a child's real name and photo to build and foster real-world relationships. Each child's neighborhood is unique and built entirely around existing personal relationships, using a parent's own Facebook® network as the base, so there is no need to create a new network from scratch. Parents simply use their Facebook login to create a child's account, and Togetherville instantly identifies which Facebook friends and their children also use Togetherville. Then parents can "allow" specific parents and/or kids into their child's neighborhood or send an invitation to others to join. When kids log on, they will see their neighborhood friends divided between "kids" and "grownups," and can interact with others or explore hundreds of apps, games and videos. 

"The Internet is the greatest learning tool ever created, but many parents are reluctant to let their child explore for a variety of reasons. By restricting Internet usage for kids under 13, we're missing an important opportunity to help them develop the online social skills they need in today's wired world," said Mandeep Singh Dhillon, co-founder and CEO of Togetherville, Inc., who is also a parent of three children under 10. "We built Togetherville using the spirit of the neighborhoods most of us remember when we were kids -- where everyone knows everyone else and watches out for each other. In Togetherville, parents have peace of mind that their kids are playing with people they know and trust and kids have fun while learning the tools they need to become good digital citizens."

"Togetherville's approach to engaging kids online with their parents, friends and families is refreshing," said Ann McCormick, founder of The Learning Company. "Kids have a natural curiosity and appetite for learning, and Togetherville's scope of activities and fun ways for kids to communicate with people they know add a new and vitally important dimension to a child's development."

Togetherville was built with three key areas in mind: self-expression, entertainment and education. Some of the popular features and activities include:

  • Quips: Like status updates, kids can choose from pre-screened "quips" to post on their page or comment on others, such as "Aced the test. Oh yeah!!" Togetherville uses set text messages to prevent inappropriate messaging and minimize anxiety that comes with free-form comment boxes. Kids can also submit their own quips, which will be available in their neighborhood once approved by Togetherville staff.
  • Creative artwork, apps and games: The site's interactive artwork, games and applications are specifically designed for fun with an educational twist. Kids can play the latest games or design seasonal cards for birthdays or holidays, such as Father's Day. All apps are developed by Togetherville or third-party developers, subject to approval. 
  • Videos: Kids can view, share and favorite their top video picks, including music videos, funny commercials and favorite cartoons. Kids and parents can also suggest videos that will be approved for age-appropriate content before being posted.
  • Gifts: Kids can send gifts within Togetherville to grownups or others kids. Gifts can include present icons, flowers and thank you messages. At launch, all gifts are free to send.
  • Badges: Designed to recognize and reward positive behavior, both online and offline, kids can earn "badges" for certain types of activities.
  • Allowance: Like real allowance, kids can earn Togetherville allowance from adults to spend on virtual goods, games, and gifts. Allowance will be available by summer when premium, low-cost goods and apps are introduced. 

To keep track of their favorite games, videos and other creations, each child has a storage trunk that can also serve as a digital memory book for families. Parents can login and view their child's trunk or recent activity at any time, and can opt to share that activity to their Facebook News Stream for instant bragging rights. Adults can "like" or comment on their child's updates and artwork, or send gifts that will appear in a child's profile and activity stream, for anyone in the neighborhood to view and comment. As in a traditional neighborhood, when parents step away, they have peace of mind that other adults they trust are keeping an eye on their child.

"Togetherville is social-networking training wheels for families. It models safe social-Web use for kids and shows even parents who are already keen Facebook users how social networking works best in the family context," said Anne Collier, co-director of ConnectSafely.org and co-chair of the Obama administration's Online Safety & Technology Working Group. "Togetherville provides a great platform for young kids to explore Internet basics, while learning and having fun."

Togetherville introduced its private beta in the fourth quarter of 2009 and has since received the TRUSTe COPPA web privacy seal that certifies the site complies with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and keeps kids' information safe. The company is currently funded by its co-founders and multiple angel investors, including FLOODGATE, an early investor in Twitter and Digg. Members of its advisory board include Collier and McCormick as well as Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and Corey Ondrejka, former Chief Technology Officer of Second Life.

NOTE TO MEDIA/BLOGGERS: Screen shots, logos and b-roll video are available by request at pr [at] Togetherville [dot] com. Parents interested in learning more about Facebook's privacy settings, can watch a helpful video produced by ConnectSafely.org.

ABOUT TOGETHERVILLE
Togetherville is a new online community developed for kids and their grownups, where kids are free and safe to be themselves in their very own online neighborhood. Togetherville places parents and other trusted adults inside the child's experience to foster online interaction and learning, and to help them grow into responsible digital citizens. Togetherville fully complies with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and offers a wide range of activities, including controlled messaging, artwork creation, videos, learning apps and fun games. Backed by its co-founders and several angel investors, including FLOODGATE, Togetherville was developed by experts in social Web technology, child development, learning and online safety, and works with officials from ConnectSafely.org and the Family Online Safety Institute. For more information, visit Togetherville.com.