What’s hot with kids and social networking

CES (MyYearbook)I attended a great panel at CES that was part of the Kids at Play program called Social Networking: It’s in their DNA. The moderator Parry Aftab was careful to point out that the people on this panel were doing things right – and I have to agree with her. Over two and a half million children aged between 8 and 17 have created profiles on social networking sites. But poor security means that a lot of the time, profile pages pages are wide open for anyone to look at.  Todays kids are growing up in a digital world. But how do you keep these kids safe? Here’s a quick look at what’s new, next and cool in the in the kids and teen social networking space.

Tom McClure from Senario presented their new product being launched at major retailers this fall called My Secret Circle. The concept is to provide kids with a private social network that has all the social networking tools available on public sites but is only accessible to a select group of friends. The private sites are reached through a USB provided on an actual key. The company is relying on the fact that kids will have several of these private social networks.

I was most intrigued by KidZui. Cliff Boro, CEO, showed promising stats for “the Internet for kids.” They’ve created a browser for 3-12 year olds. Parents no longer need to limit their children to the sites they visit. KidZui allows kids the independence to view and share content at thousands of parent approved, kid-friendly sites, games and even you-tube videos. Kids are free to experience the web the way adults do – but in a safe environment created especially for them.

As for teenagers, nothing is more important to most teenagers then their social lives. So, it only makes sense that social networking is a natural part of their lives. Panelist Vanessa Van Pette, a consultant from OnTeensToday, pointed out that brands are getting it wrong by lumping teen internet users together. She sorts teen users into multiple categories including centers, networkers, gamers, schoolers, etc. These categories can provide brands an opportunity for hypertargetting.

Teens are also taking social responsibility into their hands at such sites like MyYearbook. This social network is according to Hitwise, the third largest social site in the US. Panelist Don Ever said that the teens on their site are getting passionate about causes. And not surprisingly: Social networking tools are facilitating social change in ways that weren’t possible before. I love that this is holding true within the teen set; 200,000 MyYearbook members promised to stop cyberbullying by taking the megan pledge in memory of Megan Meier.