The Walt Disney Company has just acquired Togetherville, a social-networking site aimed at 6- to 10-year-old children.
When I first wrote about Togetherville, just before it launched in May 2010, I was impressed because it was one of the few sites aimed at preteens that shared Facebook's idea of a "real-name culture." The site requires children and their adult family members to say who they are. Unlike another Disney online children's property, Club Penguin, it's not about avatars and virtual worlds but about the child's real identity. The site lets kids connect with their friends and family members under the watchful eyes of their parents and offers games and videos for the younger set.
Parents must be Facebook members to sign their kids up on Togetherville, and this makes it easy for them to start building their child's "online neighborhood" from people they and their children already know. Parents log in with their Facebook credentials, but children don't enter Facebook or have access to any Facebook content.
In a blog post about the acquisition, Anne Collier of NetFamilyNews.org (also my co-director at ConnectSafely.org) calls Togetherville "social-networking training wheels."
With the acquisition, Disney also gets Togetherville's founder, Mandeep Dhillon, a parent of three young kids and a former manager at McKinsey & Company. Financial terms were not disclosed.
(Disclosure: Togetherville provides financial support for ConnectSafely.org, a nonprofit Internet safety organization where I serve as co-director.)