Media Responsibility, Myspace, and Preteens/kids

This morning I was surfing Cynthia Turner’s Cynopsis (CynKids 2/28/07) morning email (which I love by the way) and I came across a Great sounding new property calledThose Scurvy Rascals” –a CGI animated series that will premiere this spring (’07) on Nicktoons Network (our buddies who are also airing the Edgar & Ellen cartoon series this fall, and are currently airing the specials & shorts).

It’s UBER cute. Here’s what the site says:

Those Scurvy Rascals follows the adventures of three pant obsessed pirates – Sissy Le Poop, Smelly Pete and Shark Bait (plus Polly the Parrot)…. This bunch of seafaring scallywags appreciate all the things a good pirate should: a seaworthy ship, a badly sung shanty, a well worn plank… but they’re not interested in gold or treasure all they want is pants, pants and more pants! Pants to Those Scurvy Rascals are as gold is to regular pirates.

Content & art are very, very cute. Website is flashy, but not in a bad way. It’s young, so there isn’t too much added. You can draw your favorite pants (US: underwear) and post them in the gallery (The Mexican man’s face is borderline creepy, but worth a laugh).

They have a blog where you can write to the characters. From what I gather, they’re using the blog as a guest book for each character. Since the term “blog” is so “hot” these days, I don’t blame them. It will be interesting to see if they actually have the characters write back. I can’t really say anything about spinning blogs— why? Because our audience likes it so much, it’s turned into a message board (hey, whatever works and makes them happy & safe, right?).

ALL THIS ASIDE: My issue is their presence on myspace. Just like their website, it’s cute, fun, and goofy. But this raises an issue:

Is it Socially Responsible For Media Companies to Use the Marketing Benefit of Myspace.com For Children Under the Age of 13?

I say no. I understand it’s like another website, and that it’s considered “cool” — but to have that much RISK associated with your product. YIKES.

What do I mean by risk:

1.A. U13’s. By leading kids to your myspace page, it shows them what they can’t have (but know exists). That’s not cool. (Myspace is NOT for children. It is nearly ILLEGAL for kids to sign up for myspace, or even mess around with myspace thanks to COPPA & COPA)

1.B. U13’s. Okay fine– But you’re a kid and a BIG FAN of the associated show and you want to leave a comment. OOPS, can’t leave a comment without being a member. Why not lie and sign up anyway just to get what you want. –you think that’s not going to cross a kid’s mind? ssshyeah

2. Staff. To have ANY control over comments said on your space you have to have someone monitoring the comments. Screening, reading, approving, etc. One kid leaves his name & number, name & email, etc and you’ve got UBER COPPA issues. Any identifiable content for an under 13 year old child WITHOUT contacting a parent… and you’re breaking the law.

3. Content. It’s generally easy to “friend” someone on myspace. At any point, that property could have 100 friends a day (whether they’re U13 or not) seeking acceptance to the inner friend circle. That’s 100 sketchy links a day that could easily be clicked – thus bringing the child elsewhere to an unsafe, inappropriate page. Does a socially responsible company want to be linked with inappropriate content? I certainly hope not. Good luck screening out all those kids, eyeing ALL of their spaces, ensuring that they make “suitable, legal, content-friendly” friends.

4. Advertising. Myspace has no problem advertising to the mature-ish set. If you’re a company that’s using myspace, I certainly hope you’ve got some jedi-mind trick that gets myspace workers to give you only “acceptable” advertising that coincides with your content.

It just seems like a HUGE sketchy risk to be using myspace for anything kid-related. Not only do I avoid such a mindframe, but it makes me sad when I see other properties that I genuinely like engage in such ploys. This brings me back to the Disney Fairies website— they took the myspace concept, made their own version, and uber-safeguarded it to the max. Others have taken to kid sites like Nictropolis, VMK, Neopets, and Club penguin… aiming towards the appropriate age level social networks.

Now here’s where it gets sticky. How do you market a non-network show (that appears on an networks but not created by) with low funding?

Guerilla marketing is “the thing” these days (although Adult Swim’s approach with “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” will go down in infamy). Markets like myspace & youtube are “easy targets” and so “hot right now” right? Their very existence makes certain eyes light up (eyes that do NOT belong to anyone in the online safety biz, that’s for certain).  But again– there are mega kid issues with using these “almost-free large-scale social network sites” that offer a built in audience of millions. Youtube, for example. Even we’ve got shorts on youtube (*grumble*). Luckily, we also have a screener/moderator staff that can manage the online PR & user experience. But that doesn’t stop the kids from linking to it. The best you can do is screen the comments or turn them off (which we’ve done), highly monitor the kids that add it to their list, and do NOT link it from your home site (leave it for pre-existing users to stumble upon). Ugh. Not the best practice, but it’s as close as we can get to protection– making both a User Experience Group and a low budg. Marketing Department happy.

What sayest thou readers? This seems like it could be a controversial topic.

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  1. chocolaholic 4 life
    March 24, 2007 at 2:05 am

    my space is a terrible website i have nothing more to add to that

  2. Samantha Milligan
    May 3, 2007 at 8:47 am

    I am writing in response to the comments you posted on 28th February about Those Scurvy Rascals and their presence on MySpace.
    I am the Marketing Executive at Entara, the company that owns the rights to Those Scurvy Rascals, and felt that your thought provoking comments deserved a response from us.
    Firstly, thank-you for your kind observations about the property and the website.
    Those Scurvy Rascals is a new and exciting animation which is launching on Nick Toons weekdays at 8.30am starting Monday 28th May 2007 and is a property that we are very proud to own.
    With reference to your concerns about Those Scurvy Rascals featuring on MySpace, please be aware that the property was initially created with an older target audience in mind i.e. the ‘pants related’ humour intended to appeal to the student market.
    Following it’s acquisition by Nickelodeon and Nicktoons (US) for worldwide TV distribution, Those Scurvy Rascals is now targeted at a dual audience of children and students, which is why the characters have been placed on a number of ‘cool’ student focussed sites as well as sites for children. We see MySpace as a great way of reaching the student market and allowing them to interact with the characters and provide us with feedback.
    Please be assured that we are taking steps to remove the MySpace link from the Those Scurvy Rascals.com website as it was always our intention to remove the link before the UK TV launch, which is when we anticipate traffic for the site will increase.
    Also, as the creators and host of the Those Scurvy Rascals MySpace pages, we take every precaution to ensure that the ‘friends’ we accept are suitable before allowing them to be associated with Those Scurvy Rascals.
    If you have any further questions or comments then please feel free to contact me.

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