TotSpot a web site for toddlers
By Beth Whitehouse
MELVILLE, N.Y. ó You think a tween is too young to have a MySpace page?
That debate is so 10 minutes ago.
Soon, there will be a site meant for children ages birth to 5. Think of it as Facebook for toddlers.
On June 24, TotSpot is scheduled to make its national debut. On it, moms and dads can create free pages about their children, posting photos and videos and dates of their first smiles, first steps and first day of kindergarten.
They can invite friends and relatives ó and even parents of other babies from the play group ó to view them.
Just like Facebook.
TotSpot is the brainchild of ó who else? ó two 20-something Harvard grads from the class of 2007. They were convinced the world needs yet another social networking site, this one for the bib-and-bottle-tending crowd.
“The network of friends that you would share things with professionally could be different from the network of people you want to share stuff about your children,” explains Adam Katz, who is from Long Island.
Katz started the site with Michael Broukhim of Los Angeles, whom he met at the Harvard University campus newspaper. The two wanted to do something entrepreneurial after graduation. “We got a sense parents wanted a very simple and easy way to share stuff with their friends,” Katz says.
There won’t be ads on the children’s pages; Katz says they hope to profit from turning sites into keepsake books.
Seven-month-old Maddox Wohl of Plainview already has a page, because his mother is one of the people who was invited to preview the site as it works out its kinks for its national launch.
“I absolutely love it,” says Maddox’s mom, Meredith Allison-Wohl, 35. “It’s the greatest idea ever. I really wish I’d thought of it. My family’s always bugging me, ‘Send pictures, send pictures.’ ” She says she feels much more comfortable posting videos of Maddox to share with far-flung relatives on TotSpot than when she posted them on YouTube so family members in New Jersey and Florida could see them.
Only invited family and friends can view the page and its contents, Katz says. Users don’t have to worry about that competitive preschool finding out their toddler didn’t walk until he was 2, for instance. Or that their child went wild and smeared cupcake icing on her midriff at a birthday party.
In a way, TotSpot is formatted like an online baby book. Allison-Wohl posted, for instance, the first day that Maddox stood up. She’ll be able to post his first word and fill in an online growth chart. She posted where his name came from (not Brad and Angelina’s son), and what his name would have been if he’d been a girl (Talia or Layla).
All the people who are Maddox’s “friends” on TotSpot can get an e-mail notification every time Allison-Wohl posts something new about Maddox. If he goes to Gymboree class, for instance, she can post pictures and tag other TotSpot users to let them know if their children are in any of the photos. “It’s addicting,” Allison-Wohl says.
Larry Rosen, author of the 2007 book “Me MySpace and I: Parenting the Net Generation” (Palgrave Macmillan, $14.95), called TotSpot “a phenomenal idea. It does what the Internet is supposed to do ó which is to find ways to bring people closer.”It also helps parents to understand what social networking is all about ó in preparation for the days when their now-babies will become 7- and 8-year-olds who want to play on their own sites, such as “Club Penguin.” “There is so much fear that has built up around social networking,” Rosen says, which this can help to dispel.
The network could help parents looking for a support group, says Justine Cassell, director of The Center for Technology and Social Behavior at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. The center examines the impact of new technologies on society.
If a parent posts a notice that her child just took her first step, it’s not likely that viewers will respond with, “So? Every child walks,” Cassell says. Instead, they will offer their congratulations. “That’s going to feel good to the parents.”
The friends and families? They are totally on board. Well, at least speaking for Maddox’s grandmother in New Jersey ó and 88-year-old great-grandmother in Florida.
“What are you, kidding? I love it,” says Maddox’s maternal grandmother, Laurie Allison of Barnegat, N.J. “I play the videos constantly whenever I just want a little cheering up. I could follow my daughter’s life, too, because she writes all her comments on there about what happens. It’s really great. Especially when he’s not around the corner.”