Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Exploring differences in preteen social networking sites

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Bob Sprankle, Kevin Jarrett, and Maria Knee discuss WebKinz along with a wide variety of other “tween” social networking websites in Bob’s Bit by Bit podcast #63 this week during my commutes in the car. As a kindergarten teacher, Maria described how she has used a “class Webkinz pet” to discuss, teach, and learn about Internet safety with her five and six year old students. They did discuss the potential issues parents could have with this (promotion of a commercial site and product) but as a parent of young elementary students, I think those valid issues are outweighed by the benefits of having a REAL CONTEXT which has meaning for many students to discuss Internet safety. I posted the following comment to the podcast entry, to both thank Bob, Maria and Kevin for this episode as well as discourage the addition of stardoll [dot] com to their list of recommended “tween” social networking sites:

Bob, Maria and Kevin: This was/is a GREAT podcast and discussion. This directly impacted me and my professional development sessions with students and teachers this week on Internet Safety– I presented 2 days ago at the Casady School in Oklahoma City (an expensive, private school downtown) and used the WebKinz site to talk about Internet Safety. Some of the students shared some GREAT stories about things like password security. One of the kids had lost control of her Webkinz password for several months, and during that time someone (she never found out who) sold all her Webkinz furniture and did other things to mess up her account. The level of engagement of the students when we were discussing WebKinz was off the charts. Over 90% of the students there in attendance (there were about 60) reported that they owned a Webkinz. This provided an outstanding context for discussing Internet safety in a way that directly connected to their prior experiences, and was therefore more meaningful and potentially beneficial.To Richard’s suggestion that you add to your list of recommended pre-teen social networking sites, I STRONGLY disagree and discourage you from doing so. My 2nd grader learned about Stardoll from a friend, and after reviewing/exploring the site with her we decided to prohibit/ban its use in our home. Not only do I think the site teaches poor values (I think there are better things for my 7 year old daughter to do than clothe scantily clad barbi-like figures) the site also appears to have potentially dangerous social networking teaches poor values and provides a dangerous social networking environmentBased on the screennames of users and the chat rooms they created, this looked like a place where pedophiles actually hang out. I would encourage parents to thoroughly explore the site with their kids and make up their own mind. Based on our explorations, looks like a BAD place to hang out. Maybe I’m wrong here about Stardoll, but in general hanging out in chat rooms with strangers when you are 7 years old sounds like a bad idea….. I would put Stardoll in a different category from websites like Webkinz and Club Penguin. 

While I knew about several of the tween social networking websites (Webkinz, Club Penguin, and Imbee) which Bob, Maria and Kevin discussed in this podcast, several others are new to me, including Whyville, Panwapa, Beanie Babies, BuildABear, WoogiWorld, and Cybersmartz. Although it is for schools-only, I’d also add to this list of recommended social networking environments for tweens.A dearth of social networking websites are HERE for pre-teens as well as teens. Are we taking steps to help young learners make good choices while they are visiting, interacting, playing, and communicating on these websites? In most schools, we probably could be doing more.Technorati Tags:, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



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6 responses to “Exploring differences in preteen social networking sites”

  1. Andy Boatman Avatar

    Hey there Wesley,
    Was that you at the stop light in front of me in the Toyota with the license plate “BLOGGER”. I tried to get out my camera but it was too late and the light changed.

  2. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    Andy: Indeed it must have been, that’s my tag! 🙂

    Oklahoma Blogger

  3. Gary Stager Avatar


    I spent a couple of minutes clicking around and don’t quite understand your objections or warnings about the site.

    Sure, it’s about conspicuous consumerism and gossip, but so is most media. There is a way to be “Kid safe” or “Kid locked” and denied access to discussion boards (Clubs in the parlance of Stardoll).

    Otherwise, the dominant activity seems to be an online version of paper dolls. What’s the problem there (beyond the waste of time playing on the web happens to be)? Are you concerned that the 2D cartoon woman has a bikini on?

    The post above mine points out that real life predators and stalkers remain a much greater threat than those playing paper dolls online.

    I’m a big fan of computing, but I look at sites like this and Webkinz and feel compelled to suggest, “play outside!”

    Please fill me in if I’m missing something…


  4. Alice Osborne Avatar


    As Managing Director of Public Relations for Children’s Way and Woogi World, I want to thank you for mentioning Woogi World on your blog. And I encourage everyone to check us out. This is a FREE site that’s not just for kids (K through grade 6), but for parents as well.

    Here’s what sets us apart from all other kids/tweens social sites: 1)We’re the ONLY kids social site that invites/encourages PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT and even rewards kids when their parents do come on. 2) We are value-based, character-building, academically sound [creating games/activities to be NCLB compliant]. 3) We’re the ONLY kids’ site that goes beyond just monitoring conversations/behavior in the chat room: our “closed chat” is not only monitored, but kids are held accountable for their choices and then coached by us on how to improve behavior and conduct themselves responsibly online!

    4) On Woogi World kids engage in a Value Badge Program (via Value Adventures), designed to bring them onto the site exploring and learning about these values (kindness, gratitude, citizenship, community service, physical fitness, etc.), then through points and prizes we motivate them to get OFF the Internet and back into the real world applying what they’ve learned.

    We partner with such orgs. as Foundation For a Better Life, Habitat For Humanity, America’s Promise, National Exchange Clubs, Nat’l Wildlife Federation and Green Hour, AARP, Afterschool Alliance, iKeepSafe, Mom Central, and others. We are concerned about childhood obesity, the commercialization and sexualization of children, nature deficit disorder, the waning interest in reading, the lack of outdoor play children are experiencing, and so much more. (Gary is so right– kids need to play outside!)

    Our site will eventually have a helpful Parents Resource Center where parents can go to find information on all things family and parenting. Our underlying mantra is that children and parents should always come away better for having spent time on Woogi World.

    Woogi World is THE place to be on the Internet–it’s where we’re preparing children to compete globally, contribute locally, and excel personally. Since the Internet is here to stay, lets train this new generation of children to use it responsibly. Finally, our motto: the Internet is meant to enhance life, not BE life! Woogi World is FREE and a no-brainer. So again, thanks for helping us spread the Woogi World word!

    Kind regards,

  5. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    Gary: When my wife and I spent time on Stardoll, we were alarmed by many of the chat rooms, which had room titles making it appear they were places to talk about sex. The web is dynamic, and in fairness to the site we should probably revisit it and document in greater detail what we find there. I do not have a problem with bikinis or 2D figures with bikinis, but there certainly are better things my daughter could be doing with her time than dressing characters on Stardoll. Your point on much of media encouraging a consumerist focus is valid, of course. I’ll spend some more the site at some point in the next few weeks and do a better job documenting what we find there. Perhaps our fears are unfounded, I admit we did not spend more than 15 minutes on the site… I’m pretty sure the chat environments there are not great places for kids to hang out, however.

  6. Guest420 Avatar

    (This is an edited version of an original comment, the profanity has been removed. To future commenters on this and other posts on my blog, please do not post profanity, I won’t approve those comments.)

    Sounds to me like you’re a crazy psycho parent who needs to chill the **** out. Stardoll is an amazing website (this coming from a 19 year old girl who’s a long time member and huge fan (oh and guess what, I’ve been on websites with similar safety characteristics as stardoll since I was seven, I was just always smart enough to not get kidnapped by pedophiles, I guess (actually I never encountered any at all))). There is a kids version of the website if you’re so ****** worried about a pedophile getting your (apparently ********) kid kidnapped. If you’re so worried about pedophiles on the internet getting a hold of your kids, TEACH THEM NOT TO GIVE OUT THEIR ****** PERSONAL INFORMATION. Easy as ****** that. Have some trust. Stardoll is for fashionable girls who want to express themselves. Stardoll allows you to buy virtual clothes and put together outfits and apply makeup. And it’s a free website. Unlike buying actual clothes and makeup to play real dress-up with. Your child doesn’t HAVE to chat in clubs. Your kid doesn’t even have to join clubs at all. If you don’t want your kid in them, tell them THAT’S not allowed. Check up on them. “Prohibiting/banning it’s (entire) use in your home” is ****** psycho. Not to mention, that bar running across the top is for advertising and most kids who actually enjoy the game pay no attention to it.

    I’d be so pissed to have you as a parent. Overprotective ********.
    Sorry to be so vulgar and rude, but your article here seriously ****** me off. Reevaluate your priorities, hm? I bet you don’t agree with neopets either. Seeing as there’s MESSAGE BOARDS, OMG.

    PS, you know there’s report buttons right? If there’s inapproperiate content or if someone’s asking for any personal information, your kid can report it. Or you can report it yourself, seeing as you’d be the type of parent to sit behind your kid’s shoulder as they play