Kids and Their Grownups

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The most recent issue of Children’s Ministry magazine highlighted Togetherville.com, a Facebook-like social network for children. I clicked the link to check it out and was struck by their tagline: “Online Neighborhoods for Kids and Their Grownups.”

I like the phrase, “Kids and Their Grownups”—it rings so true! It’s hard to talk about families or parents in Sunday school without making assumptions about a child’s household. Even the words “household” and “home” imply one residence when many kids live in two places throughout the week and belong to more than one immediate family.  

The interesting thing about an “online neighborhood” is that it allows kids to bring together the many people and places in their lives and blend them into one community. That’s a new way of thinking about a child’s world. Mom and dad might live 300 miles apart in real life, but online they are both right in Junior’s neighborhood. Older siblings or mentors from church or school can post messages and stay connected with kids throughout the week.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not promoting social networking for six year olds. But I am aware that children are online playing games and watching videos. Sites like Togetherville.com aim to provide a safe (parent/caregiver monitored) place for kids to play games, watch videos, and interact with each other and the important grownups in their lives.

Will it work? Is it good for kids? I don’t know. The optimist in me thinks it could be a good thing for some kids. The skeptic says it’s just one more way that kids are growing up faster than they should… What do you think? Have you checked out Togetherville.com or sites like it? Youth directors spend tons of time interacting with teens online. Do you see children’s ministry heading in that direction?   

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Whether or not Togetherville.com is good for kids I can't say without creating an account and letting my kids (age 10 and 13) check it out. What I can say is that it's nice to see a supervised, moderated opportunity for kids to have access to the type of networking and social "conversation" that happens on Facebook, since many of them are really hungry to be included in that culture. Togetherville offers parents and kids an alternative to what many, many families choose, instead: they allow their children to lie about their age until they turn 13, at which point the children meet the age requirement set forth by Facebook in their user agreement. Even in our faith community, this is a common solution to kids wanting "in" on the "fun" of social networking with family and friends. 

That's a great point, Michelle!