8yo daughter wants to make own website - best ways to be safe about it?

My daughter Googled “how to make you own website” the other day. She stumbled upon a few sites that have some ready-to-go templates and offer a unique domain name and a small amount of free online space. Her aims are pretty simple – to have a place to store pictures, to post stories she’s written, and so forth. Essentially a hobby website … an online sandbox, if you will.

So far, so good. The trick is – she’s 8 years old. And she’s supposed to have her own e-mail address to sign up for one of these website-template sites (I’d rather she not use mine or her mother’s).

I am soliciting opinions about how a girl her age can (a) sign up for and safely maintain her own e-mail address; and (b) sign up for and safely maintain her own website (even if through one of the template services).

The first thing some people might think of is “Why not Facebook?”. However, my wife and I agree that 8 years old is simply too young for a Facebook account. We’d prefer something that’s akin to “Facebook for kids”, if there is such a thing – something stripped down with invitation-only access, does not positively identify the child, and is more or less non-searchable (the last is not a dealbreaker).

Helping her build her own template-based website would be fine as well. Just want to avoid any potential pitfalls. For example – she wants the domain name to be something based on “girls” or “girlz” or something like that. I am concerned, however, that such a domain name would attract people looking for unsavory web content.

Thanks in advance for any advice any of you may have.

99% of the internet will never see her website. Just make sure she never uses her real name and doesn’t elaborate on her location any more than ‘North Carolina’ or whatever. Maybe make her not post her email address anywhere, so people can’t contact her blindly.

For the hell of it, I went Googling and found Togetherville, which was bought by Disney earlier this year. It connects you with your child via Facebook - you need to create the account with her using your Facebook, but then you’re kind of the ‘gatekeeper’. Because it’s linked to your Facebook, she can friend her 16 year old cousin she looks up to or whatever, but you know what she’s doing and who she’s talking to.

One thing I did think of was that her website could have an gmail address that wasn’t really connected to her by name. My wife and I would have the password, and we’d cull through it now and again to filter out spam or other unwanted messages.

Since she using Google in her search for “how to make your own website”, she sounds web savvy. I’m nostalgic for 90s, early 2000s websites like Geocities. It’s different now. That’s an understatement.

Twitter might be safe.

You and your wife should set up the email and dictate, with your daughters opinions in mind, what the email name and password are going to be. Same thing for the websites name.

For instance if she wants to name the website, “GirlzDreamz”, or whatever then have the email be GirlzDreamz@gmail and not JaneDoesGirlsDreamz@gmail or even JanesGirlzDreamz@gmail. Basically have it so the email in no way can be connected back to her. Also tell her that you and your wife will be monitoring the emails regularly.

Disclaimer: I don’t know jack shit about making websites so take what I say with that in mind because I might be totally wrong on how things actually work and it is just my opinion.

For the website you’re going to have to pay for her since she is only 8 so have the website tied to you and have everything set up in your name and make sure you and your wife have administrative rights to the website. I would give my daughter the minimum amount of rights it would take to let her add pictures, stories what ever but not enough to add friends* or let others modify her site.
*If there is such thing. If there is just tell her that she can add friends or whatever but she has to get you guys to do it for her that you know who she is interacting with.

GoDaddy is a pretty good and inexpensive way to get a site set up.

No matter what email address you use to register, it need not (nor should be) on the website. For a minimum amount of money, you can buy any domain name you and she want that is not already in use. Then you get the “sitebuilder” for a year or even five years. She will definitely need your help in building the site. You can get five pages for the basic cost and have one for pictures, one for stories, etc.

Their customer service is very good, and they will help with the beginning, which can be daunting as there are so many choices of templates, fonts, etc.

She then should give the website URL only to her family and friends who might like to look at her pictures.

If she just wants something to post pictures and write stories and stuff have you considered going to wordpress or blogger.com? You can set those so that the general public can’t access them, she can post the stuff she wants to post without fear of it being stumbled upon by strangers and it is completely free.

If those allow some cosmetic “look & feel” modifications to one’s site (say, a custom background image), those could work just fine. Good suggestion.

Thanks to everyone else, as well, for the input so far.

Take the Dilbert approach: give her an Etch-a-Sketch and tell her it’s a tablet PC.

What’s her goal? Does she want to share her pictures and stories with her classmates? Does she even know that such a thing is possible? Or is she just looking to put this stuff up on the computer?

Because if it’s the latter, you can pretty much use any program you want from a website builder to, heck, a Powerpoint presentation, where you can create the page you want but don’t actually publish anything anywhere. It just lives in your computer, like all other programs.

If she’s really looking to publish online and really looking to share with her friends and family, the only thing I can say is that most reasonable precautions you take as suggested in this thread will result in her being 99.9% safe. Because, really, no one’s looking for this website outside her monkeysphere.
But when she starts sharing, realize that neither she nor you have any control over who does what with that information or who they share it with, so take that into consideration.

Google Sites is free- that’s something to consider, too :).

Blogger’s new template editor is really fun, for what it’s worth. I’ve played around with it for hours. I was the same way as your daughter as a kid, really interested in playing with websites and stuff like that. I would’ve loved Blogger. :slight_smile:

Yes, exactly this. She is also enthralled with the idea of having her own piece of the Internet.

Very much so … she’s been using the Internet (and not just for games) since kindergarten.

In such an early age having an own website will teach the kid very deeply to live an online life. To share everything online and that means sharing everything with strangers.

Is this good?

Blogger’s a good idea because IIRC you can lock down your content and only allow certain people to view it. There’s a setting to only “Allow people I choose” up to 100 people.

I’m a professional Web designer and I found Blogger’s interface to be pretty good for tinkering with for all levels of Web design knowledge. I could use the editor for quick color changes, or the advanced part of the editor for making my own CSS styles, or the template editor for full-on HTML changes.

You also can add “widgets” including the HTML widget which lets you pop in your own bit of HTML code.

So I think she could do a lot with Blogger but then also have it locked down.

…huh? Share everything online? Share it all with strangers? I stumbled upon the net when I was 12, when people were just starting to teach their kids web safety. I can count the number of strangers I’ve given my full name to on both hands. I never posted my city publicly until my 20s, and I’m still wary to give it out. Out of all the online friends I’ve made, I’ve met one in person - and that was in a public place with my real life friends.

If you instil the right values in your kids, you don’t need to worry about it.

I think blogger or wordpress might be a good way to go (I find blogger more user friendly, but wordpress has more shiny gadgets to play with). They’re both easy to customise, and blogs are basically designed for sharing pictures and stories. And you can lock them (at least blogger blogs) down to specified people, which you can’t do with full-blown websites.

If you’re registering a domain name and going the website route, one thing to think about, in addition to the email thing, is to check what information is revealed about the person to whom the domain name is registered. Here (though maybe not in the US?) websites have to be registered to a person, and that person’s name and address are publicly available through a whois lookup, unless they’ve opted out. So, you’ll want to make sure you’ve opted out, if that’s a requirement in the US too. (If not, apologies for any panic caused! But it’s something I didn’t know about until I registered my first domain name, so wanted to mention it.)

Yes, that’s what I came on to say. GoDaddy offers a service (it costs extra–I think it’s like $10 a year or something) where you can anonymously register your website. It’s been awhile since I looked, but I think the publicly available information points back to GoDaddy and your own name and address never appears. Probably most domain service companies offer similar services. This is especially important if your daughter wants to be the official registered owner of the domain.

I vote for a restricted access blogger and an email account that you are in control of that you allow her to check when you are present. At that age, I don’t think a kid should have access to a private email account.

You are crazy if you spend actual money on this when you can get everything you need for free (and more user-friendly) from Blogger or WordPress.