A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that unlike the youth-centric MySpace.com, this social networking site has a more adult feel -- and a more local community feel. Postings for homes for sale by owner and parties at gay bars are advertised and the searchable groups discuss everything from the benign to the mature. Users can find "tribe" members with similar interests, join "tribe" groups, post photos and blog entries, and get great recommendations on restaurants, music, events, and shops. Members can flag inappropriate content but there's a lot of leeway for offensive photos and dialog to appear throughout the site.
What's it about?
TRIBE.NET has taken cues from MySpace, Craigslist, and Yahoo! Groups and created one site that mimics all three. Once joined (membership is easy -- all that's needed is an email address and the willingness to fill out a short identification form) users can create a personal page complete with photos, blog, and, if inclined, an email address. They can also search local member-posted classifieds and browse about 16,000 online groups of posters interested in topics as varied as partying and politics.
Is it any good?
Unlike other online communities, Tribe.net members do not use avatars; instead, each user's name accompanies a post and you can choose not to hide his email address, too. Personal pages may be viewed only by other members, and users may search for friends and invite others to join.
Parents would be smart to monitor their kids' use of Tribe.net. While it takes the virtual community to another level by letting users search for local, offline events and meet like-minded online users from around the world, there are areas that parents of under-18 users might find objectionable. A search of the site's groups, for example, found the following fare: "Fa-Dyke Dating Union," "Scientology Sucks," and "Booty Call." Plus, questionable material isn't prevented from appearing on the site -- and is deemed inappropriate only if a member, not the site itself, flags it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about keeping safe online. Why is making friends over the Internet potentially dangerous? What kind of boundaries might a member of an online group maintain to ensure anonymity? What should one do when an online friend wants to exchange personal information or take the friendship offline?