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The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although this social networking site is open to anyone 13 and up, it's primarily geared toward college kids, and young teens shouldn't be roaming around. There's a lot going on on this award-winning social networking site -- including sexual slang, pics with underage drinking or suggestive images, mentions of suicide, cartoon graphics of guns, and links to iffy content, just to name a few. Kids can also chat with each other in real time with Bebo's AIM. There are a lot of ads and it's quite confusing to distinguish between free user sites and commercial featured sites. The good news? Kids can make their profile only accessible to friends and family. And, they can block or report people to make things safer.
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What's it about?
Already ranked the top social networking site in the U.K., Ireland, and New Zealand, BEBO.COM is next in line behind MySpace and Facebook in the U.S. as the place for teens and young adults to showcase their life in multimedia, keep in touch with and meet friends, or just hang out. The endless options for personal home page content are dizzying: Photos, organized by event or subject; YouTube videos; widgets, including a timed countdown to events; music; polls, like a celebrity look-alike photo game with the user as the real star; blogs and messages that others can also comment on; photos of friends with links of their own sites; a whiteboard that anyone can draw or write on (and the site "owner" can erase); and more.
Is it any good?
Straight-up advertising is posted clearly on Bebo.com's main page. The more subversive advertising, however, comes in the form of "Featured Sponsored Profiles" and videos that look just like the kids' free sites, but when viewed are clearly promoting a product, movie, or other commercial venture.
Good News: Bebo.com's user rules and Internet safety guidelines, posted on the networking site's main page, are some of the most practical and thorough among social networking sites. Bad News: Not a shocker, but not all users follow those safety tips and some explicit sites find ways to get their links onto some pages. Some of the content posted by users includes the standard teen social networking bugaboos like the latest camera phone shots of partying teens downing beers in the rented limo. That said, site creators have established safety tools, like a "Report Abuse" click available on each member's profile. And they've established sound rules and guides, like remembering that your online "friends" are not really friends to be trusted. Probably the best safety feature of all? The Bebo.com option to only allow access to your home page to real-life friends and family.
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