Togetherville Named One of the 10 Most Innovative Companies in Education

Togetherville.logo Fast Company just released its list of the most innovative companies in the world, and Togetherville ranked #5 on their education list! Other notable mentions on this list include LinkedIn and the Discovery Channel.

To learn more on how Togetherville, the social networking site for kids,families and teachers, is building a platform for these communities to share and express their thoughts on educational issues, click here.

Congrats to the Togetherville team!

Always Connected: The new digitial media habits of young children

image from Today’s parents, academics, policymakers and practitioners are scrambling to keep up with the rapid expansion of media use by children and youth for ever-larger portions of their waking hours.

This report by Sesame Workshop and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center takes a fresh look at data emerging from studies undertaken by Sesame Workshop, independent scholars, foundations, and market researchers on the media habits of young children, who are often overlooked in the public discourse that focuses on tweens.

The report reviews seven recent studies about young children and their ownership and use of media. By focusing on very young children and analyzing multiple studies over time, the report arrives at a new, balanced portrait of children’s media habits.

Always Connected was written by Aviva Lucas Gutnick, Michael Robb, Lori Takeuchi and Jennifer Kotler.

Always Connected: The new digitial media habits of young children

LG Launches Text Ed with 'Glee' Star Jane Lynch

LG.JaneLynch.TextEd The LG Text Ed program, which was launched in early 2010, offers parents a number of articles, tips, videos and other content so they can educate themselves on the dangers of mobile phone misuse, employ strategies to help protect their children from potential problems, and discover how they might be modeling their children’s mobile phone behavior.

In a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, presented during the Federal Communication Commission’s recent Generation Mobile Forum, 40 percent of teens said they’ve been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put themselves or others in danger.

LG Text Ed with Jane Lynch

Jane.lynch.mug.shot Bringing her trademark intensity and flair to the LG Text Ed campaign, award-winning actress Jane Lynch is working with LG Mobile Phones to raise awareness about risky mobile phone behavior.

In a series of comedic vignettes, which can be viewed on, Lynch tackles issues such as sexting, texting while driving, mobile bullying, and other questionable teen behaviors. 

At the end of each video, Lynch directs parents to where they can find professional advice and guidance to help promote safe and responsible mobile usage among their text- and tech-savvy families.

In the texting while driving video, Lynch confronts a classroom of parents about their own texting and driving bad habits and urges parents to model good behavior for their children.

Using humor to get to the heart of the issue, Lynch helps parents help themselves by putting the phone away in the car and encouraging their kids to do the same.

Parents can find additional information on the LG Text Ed initiative and mobile phone misuse (mobile bullying, sexting) by visiting You can also connect with LG Text Ed on Facebook.


Related: 'No Phone Zone' Lesson Plan: Teaching Teens the Dangers of Texting & Driving

Report: 90% of Tweens are Playing Online Games & Kids' Mobile and Social Media Use is on the Rise


Kids and Games: What Boys and Girls are Playing Today is a new report launched by M2 Research and youth marketing research firm KidSay. Survey data was collected from over 5,000 kids across the United States.

The report finds a significant increase in kids' online gaming and social media usage. 90 Percent of tweens are playing games online, with mobile and social media use on the rise, as well.

Some of the highlights of the report:

1. Social Networking: Social Networking is increasingly prevalent in children's lives. Facebook is now the favorite website among tween (8-11) boys and teen (12-15) girls.

2. Key Demographic and "Sweet Spot": Online games dominate for boys and girls ages 8-11. 91% of tween boys and 93% of tween girls play games online.

3. Nintendo Dominates Handheld Gaming Space: But thanks largely to the iPad and iPhone, Apple is becoming a significant player especially with girls.

4. Portable Platform Discrepancy: Sony's PSP has largest gender discrepancy. 17% of teen girls play games on the PSP compared to 44% of teen boys.

5. Strong Videogame Franchises: Franchises continue to flourish at the top of the "Favorites" list for boys and girls. The videogame franchise girls prefer is the Mario Series, with 20% of girls picking it as their favorite. Boys prefer Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, with 36% of teen boys picking it as their favorite game.

"We have found kids tend to play a wide variety of games, and their favorite games and gaming sites change often." explains Louise Curcio, M2 Research Analyst. "There are opportunities for companies, and we believe the kids market has been overlooked."

Nielsen: African-Americans, Women and Southerners Talk and Text The Most in the U.S.

Think you can guess which Americans talk or text the most on their mobile phones?

American kids under 18 send and receive roughly 2,800 texts per month, according to Nielsen, or about 93 per day. (Assuming 7 hours of sleep per night, on average, that's about 5.5 per hour spent awake, or one every 10 minutes or so.) In the next two age brackets, text-message usage falls by more than half each.


African-Americans and Hispanics Text the Most

According to Nielsen, African-Americans use the most voice minutes – on average more than 1,300 a month. Hispanics are the next most talkative group, chatting an average of 826 minutes a month. Even Asians/Pacific Islanders, with 692 average monthly minutes, talk more than Whites, who use roughly 647 voice minutes a month.

Hispanics send and receive around 767 SMS messages a month while African-Americans send and receive around 780 – significantly more than Asians/Pacific Islanders (384 texts a month) and Whites (566 texts a month).

The voice and text results are compiled from one year (April 2009-March 2010) of mobile usage data gathered by the The Nielsen Company, which analyzes the cellphone bills of more than 60,000 mobile subscribers each month in the United States.

Women Have Their Say

And if you think women in the U.S. talk more than men on their cellphones, Nielsen data confirms your suspicion. On average, women talk 22 % more than men (856.3 minutes a month compared to men’s 666.7).

Turns out, American women are more communicative in general on mobile devices; they text more, too, sending or receiving an average of 601 SMS messages a month compared to the 447 monthly text messages sent or received by the average American male.

Teens Rule for Texting

Not surprisingly, teens text the most, sending or receiving an amazing 2,779 SMS messages a month. In the next two age brackets, text usage falls by more than half each time, with those aged 18-24 sending or receiving 1,299 messages and those aged 25-34 exchanging an average of 592 messages.

While the text usage varies greatly between those 18-24 and those 25-34, their voice usage is quite close (981 voice minutes for 18-24 and 952 minutes a month for those 25-34 years old.)

The South Speaks Up

Location plays into usage patterns as well. Southerners are the most talkative, but while Florida ranks high in terms of monthly voice minutes used, it ranks very low for text messaging (the state has one of the highest median ages and older Americans text the least.) Mississippi, interestingly enough, ranks high for both talking and texting.


Related: Mobile Web Key to Continued Growth at Facebook

Summer Must-Read for Kids? Any Book

Has your child cracked a book this summer?

Although adults often jump at the chance to catch up on their reading during vacations, many children and teenagers, particularly those from low-income families, read few, if any, books during the summer break from school.

But the price for keeping the books closed is a high one. Several studies have documented a “summer slide” in reading skills once school lets out each spring. The decline in reading and spelling skills are greatest among low-income students, who lose the equivalent of about two months of school each summer, according to the National Summer Learning Association, an education advocacy group. And the loss compounds each year.

Now new research offers a surprisingly simple, and affordable, solution to the summer reading slide. In a three-year study, researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, found that simply giving low-income children access to books at spring fairs — and allowing them to choose books that most interested them — had a significant effect on the summer reading gap.


Cartoon Network Launches 'Stop Bullying: Speak Up' Campaign

Cartoon_network_stop_bullying_logoLast week the Cartoon Network announced further details of its multi-platform Bullying Prevention Campaign at the National Bullying Prevention Summit in Washington, DC.

Speaking to an audience comprised of government officials, business leaders and leading educators of bullying prevention, Cartoon Network’s President and Chief Operations Officer Stuart Snyder unveiled the official title of the campaign—STOP BULLYING: SPEAK UP—which will serve to educate and empower young bystanders to take action to reduce/prevent bullying.

Bystanders represent the 75-85% of students in schools that witness incidents of bullying every year, whether on the playground, in the classroom, on the bus, on social media websites, or cell phones.

The STOP BULLYING: SPEAK UP on-air and online CAMPAIGN will launch in October to coordinate with the fifth annual National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, sponsored by the National Center for Bullying Prevention.

Related: Digital Parenting Resources: Teens, Social Networking & Cyberbullying

As part of a larger commitment to the anti-bullying efforts, CNN, sister network to Cartoon Network, which has to date covered numerous stories about the rise and growing concern over bullying in America, will also recognize October Bullying Prevention Month by presenting an Anderson Cooper 360° Town Hall event the first week in October.

“Bullying recently has been designated by the American Academy of Pediatrics as a national health crisis.” -- David Doss, senior executive producer for Anderson Cooper 360°

Award-winning journalist Anderson Cooper will welcome government and education leaders, parents groups and child behavioral experts from top universities and non-profit institutions to discuss the many issues and concerns surrounding bullying.

Cartoon Network’s initial steps include launching a new series of original PSAs that will premiere on Friday, Oct. 1, at 9 a.m., introducing the pro-social effort and directing viewers to key online resources at

Update: Lady Gaga Tells Little Monsters 'Bullying is for losers'

Update: Here's the link to the Stop Bullying: Speak Up campaign resources!

Related: Ellen Degeneres 'United Against Bullying' Resources

Update: On March 10, 2011 the White House is hosting "Conference on Bullying Prevention" that will be streamed live on Facebook. The conference will address bullying--both online and offline.

Myth Busters: Facebook, Teens & Cyberbullying

Facebook handles 2m abuse reports through its site every week, and 80% of those are false. But of those cases that are genuine, by far the biggest issues are cyberbullying, addiction, oversharing and 'sexting' - when girls are bullied into sending photos of themselves to 'boyfriends'.

Balkam cites research by Ncmec, the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children in the US, which found that 1% of child victimisation cases involved the internet. "Those cases are shocking and disturbing and they make the nightly news, but therefore they seem a greater problem than they are."

The future of online safety is also about far more than just Facebook, which bears the brunt of the publicity because it is the most visible site.


Togetherville: Designing a Social Web Experience for Kids

Togetherville.logo What is it?

Togetherville is a social networking experience intended for your younger children (5-10 year olds). The new service is designed to provide a training ground where parents can teach their kids important lessons about online communication, community building and what it means to be a good digital citizen.

The Togetherville community experience piggy-backs on the Facebook platform and allows grownups to guide their kids through an age-appropriate social networking experience, kid friendly content, moderate connections and interactions all in an ad-free environment.

How does it Work?

In Togetherville, grownups act as the moderator for new contacts, assuming the responsibility for inviting family members/friends and other kids' to join their child's online neighborhood. The 6-to 10-year-olds are invited to engage with their real-world friends, play games, watch videos, and create art.

Is it safe?

Togetherville is intended for kids who are too young for Facebook and is fully compliant with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Kids' are *NOT connected* to anyone without their parents approval, so parents don't need to worry about 'stranger danger.'

Unlike other child oriented social networks, kids' use their real names instead of an alias. This is important because it teaches them to be responsible for their actions within the community. Since their identity isn't a secret, the thinking is that this will reduce the chances that they will engage in cyberbullying or other no-no behaviors.


Togetherville "Allowance"

Allowance is a new site feature that helps teach kids financial literacy while providing parents with a way to reward good behavior, both online and off.

Parents or other approved adults (family members, coaches) can give a child Togetherville currency called "T-bills," which can be spent on virtual goods, games or gifts within each child's unique Togetherville neighborhood.

Once they have T-bills, parents and adults can give Allowance to children for whom they are administrators. Kids and adults can use T-bills for virtual goodies, gifts and games.

As with any feature in Togetherville, a parent or other adult with administrative rights has complete control over who can give their child funds. In addition, just like in the offline world, a parent can suspend or eliminate a child's Allowance at any time.

Developing Healthy Media Habits

A lot of people will say that kids' don't need to be online and that they should go outside and play.

Think of it this way: too much of anything is bad. Too many hours playing video games or watching cartoons--not healthy! Eating too much ice cream, Taco Bell or drinking too much soda are also not a good thing.

It doesn't really matter if it's chocolate milk, riding your bike in the dark, watching too much TV or being online. As adults, we need to be the ones who help children develop healthy habits.

Social by Design

Think of Togetherville as a social networking apprenticeship where parents act as a Facebook "expert" who mentor and help their children through the experience of participating in a social networking community.

The situated learning theory argues that learning and knowledge acquisition takes place only when situated in a social and authentic context.

Ultimately this process –known as legitimate peripheral participation—moves the newcomer deeper into a community of practice leading them closer to acquiring the knowledge and skills required to be an expert. In Togetherville, young kids' will form a community of practice (and safety net) consisting of their peers, site moderators, and several parent "experts."

Cognitive apprenticeship is an instructional design and learning theory wherein the instructor (or parent), through socialization, models the skill or task at hand for the child. Kids' may also receive guidance from and learn from their peers.

The role of the parent is to help novices (in this case, your kids') clear cognitive roadblocks (Facebook/social networking) by providing them with the resources needed to develop a better understanding of social media. This process is called scaffolding.

Ultimately the kids will become an expert who no longer needs the scaffolding provided by Togetherville and/or parental guidance. In turn, they will have a better understanding of potential roadblocks and are now equipped the skills to navigate the world of social media/networking sites like Facebook.

Putting it All Together

In the end, what's important here is to take a balanced position when it comes to kids and technology. As a parent or teacher, don't be afraid to jump into the technology and social media pool and get your feet wet.

Use this as an opportunity to spend time with your kids and learn more about how they are using technology, mobile phones and social media in their lives.

Most importantly, when it comes to kids and social networking, don't panic!