Evidence shows that children like to socialize and they want to socialize online. According to recent research, “over 60% of 13-17 year olds have at least one profile on a social networking site, many spending more than 2 hours per day on social networking sites.”

And even younger children, those under the age of 13, are creating profiles on social networks – illegally. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act prohibits websites from collecting personal information from kids under the age of 13 without their parent’s permission. However, more and more kids secretly create these profiles.

According to Reuters, Facebook kicked off 800,000 kids in a year, but still has an estimated 5.6 million clients under the age of 13 who the company says are banned from the site. And with predators lurking on every major social networking site, parents need to ask, Just how safe are my kids online?

Predators look for young children who are vulnerable to seduction. Recent online statistics show that 1 in 25 youths have received an online sexual solicitation where the solicitor tried to make offline contact. And aside from predators, children online are exposed to large amounts of commercial ads which may not be age appropriate.

Though the evidence shows there are risks to children networking online, parents can make the experience safer by directing their kids to kid-friendly social networks which are monitored and include parental oversight. To get you started, here is a list of 5 safe social networks for young children:

1. KibookuKibooku offers a safer environment for Kids to interact and play online.

What Parents Should Know:  This site offers a parental control area, 14 day parental verification of kid’s content, and traceability of all registered parents. It allows kids to meet new friends in a safer environment.

2. giantHello – this social gaming network just for kids includes custom profiles, instant messaging, photo uploading, fan pages and much more.

What Parents Should Know: GiantHello is a lot like Facebook, but gives much more attention to safety and privacy concerns for young people. It requires parental consent for kids under 13, and it’s a closed network. However, parents should be aware that the Games section includes ads and some violent and sexual content.

3. Yoursphere – a social network that authentically represents the voice, interests, talents and aspirations of young people.

What Parents Should Know: Yoursphere requires parents to submit to a background check for identity verification before activating their child’s account. Also, they have strict membership rules to weed out some undesirables, and sign-ups are vetted against a database of registered sex offenders.

4. Everloop – A safer, online, social homebase for kids under 13. It’s the leading online social media site for kids and tweens to connect with friends, play games, discover new talents.

What Parents Should Know:  Kids create private loops of friends that is protected from anonymous intruders. Parents can also monitor all actions and approve age-appropriate activities.

5. Sweety High – A closed social network for girls that is strong on privacy. It’s an innovative online platform that rewards the user’s creativity with “exclusive real world prizes and one-of-a-kind opportunities.”

What Parents Should Know:  This social network moderates user-created content and provides plenty of information on surfing safely. Users’ profiles are only visible to their friends, and there are parental controls for younger users’ accounts.

Your Turn: Which social networking sites have you found to be safe for your kids?