Disney tries social networking

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

Business professionals have LinkedIn; high school and university students and adults in general have Facebook, and anyone with attention-deficit disorder or a longing for the early days of the World Wide Web has MySpace. Now the Walt Disney company is borrowing a (web) page from the popular social networking sites with its new offering, Disney XD.

Disney on Tuesday launched Disney Xtreme Digital, a site aimed at letting kids under the age of 14 create their own "channels" on the new service's site.

The bandwidth-heavy site, which requires a broadband internet connection, lets children create their own "D-name", profile and customize their channel with videos, games and music, as well as "digital stickers and gadgets". They can also chat and play games with other users with parental permission.

Taking a cue from MySpace, which remains a top site for musicians hoping to be discovered and for recording companies to build audiences for existing acts, Disney used the new site's launch to debut the first solo album by Corbin Bleu [who?], "star of popular Disney Channel movies High School Musical and Jump In."

The site apparently has parental controls and lets adults monitor their kids' online chats, but it will be interesting to see how well they can do so and keep kids safe from would-be predators, especially because children's awareness of online risks is low. That may be why police want to tackle the problem themselves.

Disney didn't offer very much detail on how it plans to keep the service secure for children, and its authentication method relies on the youngsters to notify parents they are using the service — by supplying an e-mail address. Disney XD limits the kinds of interactions kids can engage in, but as any parent knows, when you give children freedom they are bound to make mistakes.

And that doesn't even address the other problems with kids and computers.