FaceChipz: Social Networking With Training Wheels
I like to remind parents that the Internet is not an all-or-nothing place for kids. Just like you wouldn’t give your kids the keys to the car and tell them to “grab a bunch of friends and drive across the country” on the first day that they’re licensed drivers, you don’t want to give them the entire Internet experience before they’re ready either.
There are many new solutions that provide younger folks with a proving ground for experiencing the Internet and social networking. One of the newest is FaceChipz. FaceChipz is interesting for two reasons. First, it has a physical component. You buy a pack of five FaceChipz at retail. Second, you are limited to having a one-to-one relationship with your FaceChipz friends. Think of it as a sort of permanent BFF relationship. FaceChipz is about you and your friend (not plural) having an online relationship.
Here’s how it works. You purchase a five-pack of FaceChipz at places like Toys”R”Us. A chip looks very much like a colorful poker chip. Each chip has a unique ID number on it. You enter the website using the unique ID found on the chip.
Here comes the unique part. Once you’ve registered your chip you can hand it over to your BF (Best Friend). They enter the same code from the chip into their PC. When they do you and your friend are connected on the FaceChipz site. If you don’t physically exchanged chipz your profile remains hidden. In addition, parents need to sign up their children to be a part of the site, which increases the safety aspect.
Once you’re signed up and have a friend, you can use FaceChipz similarly to how you use Facebook. You create a profile, post pictures, and share electronic trinkets with friends. The FaceChipz sell in packs of five for $5 and there’s a one-time $1 fee for processing the parent’s application.
Parents are enamored of this newcomer because it provides a low risk, controlled taste of social networking. I was a bit put off by the fact that creating a group of friends requires a convulted sharing of chips. If I invite you and you invite a friend, I need to get a chip from the new friend in order to become a group. I tested it with some 10-year-old kids (as well as some adults) and they had a similar reaction. They’d prefer a site where they could have multiple friends created with less work. Still, if you’re looking for a training wheels approach to internet safety consider Facechipz.