A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that GirlSense is a style-related social networking site where girls can be creative and flex their fashion muscles. Registered users can design clothes and accessories, create a boutique, and sell virtual versions of their creations. That's all in good fun, however, some of the site's interactive elements pose a concern. Girls can correspond publicly and privately with strangers through message boards, chat, posts, and email. Although there is a language filter, posts appear instantly -- and it's very easy to meet and send messages to other users through the site's internal email system.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
In Girlsense, kids decorate clothing, create a boutique business, advertise their creations, and network with other designers online. Kids can create their own stores, participate in auctions, and advertise their clothing designs. They can also send private and public messages, chat live with others, “follow” favorite users, and play a number of trivial mini-games about dress-up. Parents should talk with their kids about the body image promoted on the site, as well as appropriate clothing designs and language use.
Is it any good?
Girls can use the GIRLSENSE Designer Studio tool to create different looks, determine what they'll charge for them, and then showcase the creations in a customized boutique. Style-savvy girls should enjoy using the site's above-average design tool, which lets you customize each piece by adding fancy buttons, changing its length and more. Aside from the site's obvious emphasis on shopping/materialism, the fashion-related GirlSense activities are pretty tame.
The site's interactive elements, however, are a cause for concern. Although many of the group message boards contain positive posts, some also contain questionable content (such as a group called "Hook ups :)," which offers to help members find the perfect match). It's also a little scary how easily kids can connect with other users through the site's internal email system: You don't have to send a friend request first and can just key in a username to send a message. Filters prevent kids from typing in email addresses, URLs, or phone numbers, which should help reduce the likelihood safety mishaps. However, parents will still want to supervise their child's time on GirlSense to make sure it's about creating cool clothes -- and not connecting with strangers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how people express themselves through their appearance, both online and in person. Can you express your creativity through clothes or make-up? How can you have fun with different looks without putting too much emphasis on your physical appearance?
Why do you need to be cautious about what you say when you're online? Is it safe to send email to someone you've never met in person? What about posting to someone's wall? Is one form of communication safer than the other?
How important it is to stay safe when you're in a social network, even when you share similar interests such as fashion?