School Together Now is a new site offering 'school centric' social networking, and it has not been received well in the press. Indeed, Cambridge University researchers have indicated that it's security is fundamentally flawed. The idea of having a parent community talking to each other and their school is a laudable one if it is properly managed and access is controlled and authorised by the school. I also like the idea of a school being able to support local businesses and generate an income from doing so.
'School Together Now' though does not seem to understand the basics of working online with children. Schools should consider why they would want to be associated with it, and a school centric community which isn't supported by the school is likely to be dead in the water. Can the concept be rescued? ... not without major changes. These changes would cost money and I'm not sure the business model could adapt.
Unverified user self registration on any site that mixes adults and children is just plain wrong as it will attract all manner of anonymous wierdos. Schools need the reassurance of a protective fence around an online school community. There is often competition (and tension) between schools and this could also be an issue if they share the same environment. Local federations or clusters of schools are probably the widest boundary a schoool would feel confortable with.
Learning Platforms might be a better choice for an online environment offering social and community networking centred on school life. Parent areas of learning platforms should also include opportunities for local business to advertise to parents with the aim of covering the costs of the environment. At the moment there are no good examples of parent environmetns in most learning platform products, and the focus is on teaching and learning.
Schools must feel able to police participation in their schools online community. This includes setting the acceptable use policies and deleting users. I believe there is a market for an online school community for parents managed by a school, but social networking for children needs to be carefully managed to ensure their safety and security.