Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Their Space: A Concerned Parent Creates a Safe Social Network for Teens Only

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Their Space: A Concerned Parent Creates a Safe Social Network for Teens Only

Article excerpt

A MOTHER OF FIVE, Mary Kay Hoal had observed her eldest daughter's activities in the unruly world of online social communities and was not pleased. "1 thought this whole social networking thing was bad:' she says.

She had a change of heart after recognizing that social networking simply wasn't being used in the best way. "I realized you need to embrace it to change it and make it positive:' she says. "There are so many studies coming out that are touting the positive and educational benefits of social networking. My ambition is to take the benefits we know exist, put them in a safe and age-appropriate environment, and make it engaging for kids while giving parents peace of mind."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The result of her ambition is Yoursphere (http://yoursphere.com), a social network for students ages 9 to 18 that Hoal launched last September. One catch for teens: Parental approval is a must.

"We're the only community that actually requires and verifies consent from a parent or guardian:' Hoal says.

Yoursphere collects the parent's name, date of birth, and Social Security number and screens the information over a database of 4 billion records until a match is found that confirms the identity. Once the parent's identity is established and clears a sex offender registry, the child is accepted.

For users between the ages of 13 and 18, parental involvement with Yoursphere ends after the sign-up process is complete. Parents of members ages 9 through 12, however, have access to a dashboard where they can see what their child has contributed to the community. …

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