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Lori Getz: It's finally here, something to fill the void between outgrowing Webkinz and joining Facebook. And it's great! No crawlers, ads, or searching ... as the owner of FaceChipz put it, "It's prep school for Facebook."

Let me explain ... Webkinz holds the interest of kids until they are about 8 or 9 years old. Then, suddenly they are too old for a "kid site" and ready to move on. But there is no place to which they can move on. Facebook's terms of service clearly state that an owner of an account must be at least 13 years old, and MySpace says they need to be 14! So what are kids supposed to do between 10-13? I'll tell you what they ARE doing ... they are joining Facebook and MySpace before their time.

I've reviewed dozens of "kid-friendly" and "safe" websites meant for digital natives, but this is the first time I have been this excited about an online social networking product for kids 8-13. The problem with the other sites, in my opinion, is that they either promote behavior that is not safe for this age group (including searching out strangers, being searched out by strangers, and becoming a friend of a friend) or they are so locked down with parental controls that the kids feel as if they do not have room to breathe.

FaceChipz took a hard look at these issues, and here is their solution. FaceChipz requires a face-to-face interaction where the kids actually exchange a Chip (it looks like a poker chip with an emoticon printed on it) -- and in addition to being very cool looking, Chipz also have these features:

• Each Chip has a registration code on the back.
• The purchaser of the Chip then registers the Chip at the website before giving it to a friend.
• The friend then registers the Chip at the website and it connects the two friends.

What I love about this simple interaction is the fact that you can only connect with people you know. No "fringe friends" (that means friends of friends). If a small group of friends all want to connect, then everyone in the group must exchange a Chip. It sounds more complicated than it is, but trust me, your kids will get it in a second!

The website itself contains lots of cool features including a "What am I up to" status bar, "My Mood," "Secret Message," "My 11s" (because 11 is better than 10), "ChipChat," a place to upload photos, and even a virtual store where you can send gifts to friends using points you accumulate at the site (no additional dollars to be spent here). The virtual store even has animated videos.

Behind every user account is a parent account where you have the option to lock it down (and edit your kid's site) or give them some freedom to roam. FaceChipz was created to be attractive to kids while being safe for all users. What I like best about this site is how kids can be kids in a contained environment. If they post a picture that we as adults may deem inappropriate, at least it is happening in a place where Google and Bing are not crawling and capturing their mistakes. If your child types SHIT ... it automatically turns into **** on the page. You don't have to worry about inappropriate ads because there is no advertising on the site -- and because there is not a search feature, the only way your child can become friends with someone is by exchanging a registration code. That just comes down to good old parenting. We teach our kids not to take candy from strangers, so we can teach them not to take chips from them either.

Don't get me wrong, no site on the Internet is ever totally safe because we have to contend with rapidly changing technology and behavior. However, this one is safer, more appropriate, and a whole lot of fun! Learn more about FaceChipz here.

next: My Son Pushed Off This Week
12 comments so far | Post a comment now
Emily October 2, 2009, 9:13 AM

I’m interested in learning more about it, but the link hasn’t been working.

Jill (the other one) October 4, 2009, 12:02 AM

What a wonderful idea!

snookie October 16, 2009, 10:33 PM

I just signed by 10 yr old daughter up — she and 6 of her friends are all on facechipz — they really like it — and FINALLY something that’s safe!!!

Debbie October 20, 2009, 5:46 PM

someone gave my son one these facechips at school yesterday. I was concerned about it at first — but after reading your post I think I’ll let him tryit.

Shawn October 23, 2009, 11:49 PM

my daughter is bored with webkinz — but no where near old enough to go on facebook or godforbid that Myspace — maybe this facechipz is the answer — it sounds cute

SueEllen November 2, 2009, 12:24 AM

A girl in my son’s 5th grade class gave him one of these facechips today. I just signed him up (happy 2 pay the $1 as long as its safe) — he loaded up all his pictures and then had me drive him to toy are us to buy MORE chips — oh boy — i’m either having a Pogs flashback moment or menopause is setting in early…

CARLEY'S MOM November 6, 2009, 9:17 AM

My daughter is turning 10 tomorrow and we’re giving packs of facechips away as party favors — all the kids in the class seem to want them.

janiemom November 29, 2009, 9:57 PM

my 9 and 11 year old girl are both on facechipz — we love how safe it is!

Maria December 5, 2009, 10:17 PM

My 10 year old was invited by her cousin to join facechips. She received one in the mail and was hooked from there. She dragged me to toys r us to buy them but we couldn’t find them there — so bought her some online. I like the site because I know my daughter will be safe on it.

Cindy December 11, 2009, 10:55 PM

It’s great, my 2 girls love it! I don’t mind paying for them, I’m just happy my kids finally have a safe place to play online…and that’s saying a lot for me….I don’t even let them browse on youtube.

Lisa M April 26, 2010, 6:07 PM

I don’t know if this is the answer. Parents: why do you want to encourage your little ones to trust a system that is already flawed. I can see a half dozen security issues with this product. The bottom line is that kids should not be allowed to join social networks until they are age appropriate. This one frightens me because the only token of “trust’ is a pleasing little toy that anyone can buy in a store. This is very scary.

news about jobs October 30, 2010, 7:21 PM

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