Social networking has evolved from chatting on America Online and Yahoo Messenger to niche sites for people with all kinds of interests. Lately MySpace, Facebook and even more recently Twitter have exploded on the scene and social networking is as common as talking on the phone. In fact, the combination of text messaging and online social networking has certainly given the phone a run for its money.
Social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace cater to a smorgasbord of users while people using sites such as Subeta and Neopets are mostly teens. Social networking sites can be very specific, too. For instance, you'll find sites for just about every type of car, sport and sports team or music genre. And one of the largest groups of specialized social media sites is dedicated to parenting.
Many men and women will be, are or hope to be parents. That's why social networking sites for parents are growing all over the Internet. While it's impossible to list them all, this article will give you a taste of 10 sites, in no particular order, that cater to mothers, fathers and family activities. You may find these sites useful, informative and even entertaining. If nothing more, you'll find millions of other parents looking for similar stuff. Now, let's get started with Parents Connect in the next section.
The children's network many of you grew up watching on TV is still trying to reach you on the Internet via its parenting social network site ParentsConnect.com. Viacom, the parent company that brought you Nickelodeon, has a comprehensive site where mothers and fathers (current, potential or soon-to-be) can share their thoughts with others in the same boat.
The underlying theme of ParentsConnect is that parenting isn't an exact science. That's why the site offers tips and advice for parents beginning at pregnancy and stretching all the way through the teen years. The community section offers users the opportunity to participate in discussions and join user groups with parents of similar tastes and preferences. Users can also share shopping deals found on the Internet or in local communities, share recipes and advice on food and search for local events for children and families to attend. There's plenty of expert advice too. ParentsConnect offers responsible advice on everything from how to breast feed to how to deal with your teenage daughter's negativity.
Whether you're planning a family, already have an established family unit or if you're in an evolving family with the addition of stepchildren, ParentsConnect.com is aimed to bring parents together.
Disney Family Community
What would online social networking for parenting be without Disney? The Disney name is synonymous with children and fun. But Disney Family Community goes beyond that. Sure, you can find plenty of Disney-themed stuff to peruse on Disney Family Community, but you can also find plenty of valuable parenting information as well.
Geared toward a healthy family lifestyle, Disney Family Community offers a vast network where users create profiles to share their experiences by posting pictures and discussing family vacations and activities. The sites focus is on par with what Disney represents. While it includes most of the standard social networking features, Disney Family Community aims to allow families the means to create a digital scrapbook and make it available to users to share their families' adventures and life experiences in a format that's easy for everyone to enjoy.
Disney Family Community also has a comprehensive search engine that not only finds you great deals at Disney theme parks, but also points you in the right direction for family fun around your local area.
Café Mom is a parenting social network site geared toward mothers. As if the name didn't give that away, right? Founded by Andrew Shue -- yes, Billy from the wildly popular TV series Melrose Place -- and Michael Sanchez, Café Mom was launched in 2006 and quickly took the social networking world for women by storm. Within a year of its inception, Café Mom became the most trafficked Web site for women on the Internet [source: Fung].
As its name suggests, Café Mom is a site catering to women with children or wanting to have children. In fact, the site claims to be the largest social networking site for women.
Café Mom has plenty for mothers to do, including participating in polls, asking and answering questions and uploading photos. Like other social networking sites such as Facebook, Café Mom users can create profiles, join user groups and customize pages to express their personalities. You won't find much in the way of dating advice or cocktail recipes, but you will find sound parenting advice and a wholesome environment for moms of all walks of life.
This social networking site for parents is aimed toward connecting mothers online. What makes MomsLikeMe unique is the network offers both a local and nationwide site. For instance, users in Atlanta, Ga., have their very own MomsLikeMe site that has unique content compared to the one in say, Burlington, Vt. The great thing about the individual sites, however, is the uniformity. The sites look and feel similar, yet each is run by a local site manager.
At the top of each unique site are links to local news and entertainment Web sites. Users on each site can choose to navigate one of eight areas including Discussions, Groups, Things to Do, Photo, Video, Coupons, Marketplace and My Stuff. Each of these areas is easy to use. For instance, the Discussions area has several categories for mothers to start and join in conversation about various topics related to parenting. And the Marketplace is an online classified section where users can share items they want to sell.
Perhaps the coolest feature on MomsLikeMe is the Coupons area. Similar to a shopping cart on e-commerce sites, users can choose one of several online coupons and the cart will display a running total of how much money you've saved. You can add or subtract coupons at will and once you're ready, you can print your coupons and take them to your local store.
Founded in 1997 and owned and operated by Johnson & Johnson Co., BabyCenter caters to both mothers and fathers but the majority of users are women. Similar to MomsLikeMe, BabyCenter appeals to users in a variety of locations. Referred to as outposts, BabyCenter reaches more than 6 million users in 18 countries [source: BabyCenter]. The site is available in seven languages.
Similar to other parenting social networking sites, BabyCenter offers users expert advice as well as parent-to-parent networking. But unlike family-oriented sites such as Disney Family Community, BabyCenter targets expectant parents all the way up to those with children aged eight with an emphasis on pregnancy, pre-family planning and babies.
Tabs take you through the steps of parenting from preparing to have chilren to the growth of your family. Each section in between is devoted to the different stages in your child's life. For instance, the baby tab opens up a gateway to articles covering everything from getting to know your newborn baby, feeding and preparing formula, diaper changing and childcare. Users can access BabyCenter on smart phones, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
Hot Moms Club
Are you a mom that likes to kick up her heels and live like a socialite in Hollywood? If so, Hot Moms Club may be right up your alley. A bit different than conventional parenting social networking sites, but full of great things for mothers nonetheless, Hot Moms Club is what you get when a parenting site meets TMZ. Unlike most parenting sites, Hot Moms Club is more of a social networking site for women who happen to be mothers rather than a place to connect with other parents.
Instead of droves of expert advice on preparing baby formula, you're more likely to read about how Dane Cook's Isolated Incident Tour went last night or when Billy Ray Cyrus is coming to a town near you. Of course, there are still places to find and share recipes and you can talk about parenting. But where you won't find tons of information on prenatal care, you'll find plenty of discussion about vacation planning, finding single men and plenty of celebrity gossip. Sound interesting?
Hot Moms Club is certainly not for everyone. While Hot Moms Club probably won't peak the interest of many men (unless they're single and on the prowl, perhaps), it will appeal to mothers in search of a new identity or those who may just need a little more excitement. The founders, Jessica Denay and Joy Bergin, are mothers themselves, and the site reflects their style and affinity for being hip.
Frustrated at the difficulty of coordinating play dates and finding activities for their children to do, the founders of Raising Them designed a social networking site for parents to bring families with similar interests together. Raising Them focuses on networking families in close proximity with the hopes of building relationships where people can interact online and even in person.
Users are the strength of Raising Them. Social networking is at the very core of the site. Members create groups and invite other users to join in hopes of creating larger, more diverse user groups. The size of the user groups is often determined by the location of the primary users. For instance, a user group in Manhattan may have more members than a group somewhere in Montana.
Raising Them members sometimes choose to get together and meet in person. This is an advantage of Raising Them, as play dates for children can be fun for kids, but not so fun for parents. Social networking on Raising Them promotes families to search for other users with similar interests in hopes that parents can meet and enjoy each other's company while their children play.
Contrary to what the name suggests, JustMommies is a social networking site for moms and dads, not just mothers. OK, maybe there's just a small section devoted to the father's interests. But like other social networking sites for parenting, JustMommies offers expert advice on everything from pre-pregnancy planning to home schooling. JustMommies has features similar to other social networking sites, but it's the site's message boards that really set JustMommies apart. Just take a look at these site stats: As of June 25, 2009, JustMommies boasted 1,616,786 topics and 16,369,562 posts among 47,585 members [source: JustMommies].
Along with the hundreds of categories to browse through in the community section, JustMommies includes a great deal of comprehensive articles aimed to help moms through parenting. There's lots of basic recipe, health and fitness and education content, as well as a great baby-name-finder feature. You can even take quizzes and check out dozens of video articles.
There are also a number of helpful tools, including body mass index and breastfeeding calculators. One of the most helpful features is a pregnancy calendar. This is where mothers-to-be can chart the progress of their pregnancy and get advice from other women who have recently, or are currently going through pregnancy themselves.
The lone pay site of the group, Famster is also the one social networking Web site for parenting that puts an emphasis on the family as a group. Users can sign up for a two-week free trial offer to determine whether or not the site is something that fits their needs. If after two weeks you find Famster to be a good fit, the cost is $9.95 per month. So what do you get for all that coin?
For one thing, you get more storage space online to get more creative with your family's profile. Each account gets 1 gigabyte (GB) of file cabinet space for documentation and 1 GB for video. In addition, members get unlimited space for uploading photos, a blog and scrapbook usage.
Famster users can also create a virtual family Web site. You can use your own domain name -- such as howstuffworksfamily.com -- with which you can host your Famster page and set up personalized e-mail as well. Each family profile can be customized by uploading photographs, designing scrapbooks, uploading video feeds, writing blogs and creating personal calendars. Users can even set up instant messaging between fellow family profiles and set parameters that allow different levels of chatting for each child.
One of the most useful features is Famster's security center and registered-sex-offender alert system. Members receive alerts through the registry if a registered sex offender moves into their neighborhood.
No, this site isn't a place to discuss tasty breath-freshening candies. Minti is a social networking site for parents to join discussions and offer advice to others in search of the answers to the perpetual questions that come with raising children. Ironically though, Minti was chosen from 40 potential names because of the site's founders' desire for fresh and positive feedback to site surveys.
Minti has more male users than most of the other sites we looked at. The site specializes in providing a forum for parents to share advice and network with parents with similar interests, problems or questions regarding parenting. Here are some of the features you'll find throughout the site:
- User-generated content (similar to Wikipedia)
- Social ranking of content
- User tagging and tag clouds (similar to Flickr)
- Free blogs
- User-created sub-groups
- Personal homepages, friends features and private lounge areas (similar to MySpace)
- Detailed Question & Answer features (similar to Yahoo Answers)
- Comprehensive search functionality across all content sources
Members must join the network in order to post blogs and write advice columns. But once you register, you have full access to the site's comprehensive database of user-generated content. If you find something exceptionally useful, you can choose to rank it. In theory, the better content will stand out and all users will benefit from reading those posts.
Pregnancy, baby feeding and options for childcare are all part of Minti. The site is clean and easy to navigate. Its lasting feature -- user-written content -- boasts the intelligence of the site's members and sets Minti apart from many of the other, more gimmicky parenting social networking sites.
For more on social networking sites, visit the links on the next page.
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- BabyCenter. (June 20, 2009) http://www.babycenter.com/?intcmp=Nav_Global_Logo&pn=Baby%20Hub
- CafeMom. (June 20, 2009) http://www.cafemom.com/
- Disney Family Community. (June 21, 2009) http://family.go.com/
- Famster. (June 21, 2009) http://www.famster.com/
- Fung, Amanda. "Mother's little helper: Café Mom finds a winning online formula." Crain's New York Business. May 4, 2008. (June 19, 2009) http://www.crainsnewyork.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080504/FREE/876270075
- Hot Moms Club. (June 21, 2009) http://www.hotmomsclub.com/
- JustMommies. (June 21, 2009) http://www.justmommies.com/
- Minti. (June 19, 2009) http://www.minti.com/
- MomsLikeMe. (June 23, 2009) http://www.momslikeme.com/
- Ostrow, Adam. "Moms are hot: Café Mom raises $12 million." Mashable.com. March 18, 2008. (June 22, 2009) http://mashable.com/2008/03/18/cafemom-funding/
- ParentsConnect. (June 21, 2009) http://www.parentsconnect.com/home/index.jhtml
- Raising Them. (June 19, 2009) http://www.raisingthem.com/