Togetherville, a Facebook-like social network for kids 10 years of age and younger, is launching a new feature called School Communities today that aims to “give kids a voice” when it comes to how their schools are run. The feature also represents a big change to the way the site is building its social graph, making it far easier for children to connect with their friends.
It’s easy to forget (and many kids probably ignore it entirely), but Facebook maintains a firm requirement that everyone on the site be thirteen years of age or older. That’s where Togetherville comes in — the site appeals to parents by promising a safer, more secure environment, where parents can moderate who their children are connecting with. Parents approve each of their child’s friends, and can also connect with other parents using Facebook’s social graph.
Before now, though, the process to find your child’s friends was more tedious than it probably should have been — if your kid wanted to ‘friend’ another child, then you would have to be friends with the other child’s parents on Facebook. The new ‘Schools’ feature makes this easier: during signup you’ll enter the name of your child’s school, Togetherville will present your child with a list of their friends, and they can ask to connect with them (pending each parent’s approval).
The addition of schools also brings another dynamic to the social network: communities. Parents can now talk to each other about current school-related issues on the school’s community page (which is analogous to a Facebook page), and it also gives kids a chance to speak their minds.
But while parents will be to engage in a straightforward conversation forum, the kids side of things is a bit more complex. Every so often Togetherville sends out mass polls to all of its users — questions like, “What’s your favorite subject and why?” When a child responds to one of these questions, their answer will appear in the feeds of their friends, and their parent will be asked for permission to publish the response on the community page of the child’s school (they’ll also be asked if the response can be published as part of anonymized data aggregated across all of Togetherville).
CEO Mandeep Dhillon says that this gives kids a unique chance to share their thoughts on their school — if enough students talk about an issue, then maybe the grownups will take notice (I suspect that student requests will result in a lot of noise, but the trends may be worthwhile). He also says that the community feature will be rolling out for uses beyond schools as well, like coordinating soccer teams.