In a time when an estimated 7.5 million Facebook users are underage, one mom in Waxahachie has decided to provide her daughter with a safe alternative.
Jackie Renfroe created a website, www.hey-bella.com, for her 7-year-old daughter, Bella Renfroe, when she began asking if she could have a Facebook account like her first and second grade classmates.
“I’m against Facebook for children,” Jackie said. “I don’t think even 13 year olds or anyone not out of high school should be using Facebook. Bella asked why she couldn’t just have a place of her own to go play games and chat with her friends, so we said we could do that.”
The website includes games, monthly contests, chatting, Bella’s blog, a news buzz for preteens, and an All About You section with helpful information for young girls.
“I like everything on my website,” Bella said. “I like playing games and chatting with my friends most. I have a lot of games like cooking, make up, nails, design and adventure games.”
Bella chooses all of the content for her website and her mom, Jackie, moderates what goes on the website, including the advertisements.
“I’m all for anything that has that entrepreneurial spirit,” Jackie said. “Anytime my kids want to try something new that can be a learning experience for them, we try to make it happen.”
Jackie explained that all of the comments and content posted on the website is moderated by her, so nothing inappropriate can get through.
“The point is for it to be a bully-free place for young girls to have fun on the internet,” she said. “I moderate everything that goes on the website through my phone, so I see and approve all of the comments before they go up.”
The website does not allow users to list their last name, address or phone number and requires users to list their age.
“Even if some creepy person wanted to lie about their age and sign up, there is no way for them to send a private message to any of the other users – everything is out in the open,” Jackie said. “The conversation can’t even go in a bad direction, because I’ll stop it from going there.”
Most of the chat comments between the girls are about homework, summer activities, boys and their favorite shows or celebrities.
Users can earn “pickle points” on the website play games, refer friends, comment on threads in the forum or email questions to Bella or post topics for discussion.
“Pickles are my favorite snack,” Bella said, explaining why they’re called pickle points.
Girls can use the points to buy toys and items in Bella’s Closet, which is stocked with items by the Renfroes.
“We get some money from the number of clicks on the ads, which we use to buy contest prizes and items for Bella’s Closet,” Jackie said.
The advertisements are all age-appropriate from designing custom T-shirts and greetings cards to Kids Nat Geo (National Geographic).
Though Bella picks all of the content for the website, updates her blog and picks a new background image every day, Jackie said she limits her internet time and keeps an eye on what sites she visits.
“She’s not allowed to switch to a different website without asking me and I won’t let her spend all day on the computer,” she said.
She said it is all geared towards inspiring Bella to try new things, learn and develop an entrepreneurial spirit to help her succeed in life.
For more information about the website, visit it at www.hey-bella.com or email Bella@hey-bella.com.
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