By Anne Collier
It’s great that parents are getting the message that they can monitor their kids on Facebook by joining it, but they also need to remember that Facebook isn’t the all of teen online socializing (even though it’s in the news a lot!). It’s just the big social utility that aggregates basically “everybody” in teens’ real-world school and social lives. But there’s plenty more social activity happening in other sites and services too. A recent blog post at TrendMicro looks at that growing social site segmentation, zooming in on three additional spaces teens reportedly frequent: MyYearbook.com (a social network site popular with high school students), Meez.com (avatar chat and games, where avatars visit each other’s “roomz”), and IMVU.com (targeted at and probably more appropriate for 18-to-24-year-olds). There are also countless gaming and virtual world sites kids and teens love (they usually just call them all “games”). I don’t think any of this is an either-or proposition; kids just use different sites, apps, and services for different things, just as we do – online as well as offline.
As for those beyond-FB activities, a brand-new app has launched for parents to monitor kids’ online gaming from their (parents’) Facebook profiles: Piggyback, which is madly signing up game and VW partners as you read this. Launch partners include Whyville.net, PlanetCazmo.com, and Woozworld.com. What I like about this monitoring is that it doesn’t just focus on potential negative stuff. “Parents get an overview of their children’s activities on partner sites, receive safety alerts, have access to game-specific reports and get notifications about their children’s in-game achievements. Piggyback promises always-on monitoring and a way for parents to reward good behaviors with site-appropriate virtual goods and currency, including Facebook Credits,” Mashable reports. Facebook Credits are the site’s own virtual currency, which can now be purchased in the form of gift cards at retail stores such as Target and used to buy virtual objects in Facebook-based games such as Farmville (more detail at Mashable). [For more on in-site monitoring, see “Moms’ tech concerns & countermeasures” and “Facebook: No. 1 tool for parenting? Maybe. Use wisely.“]