Parents & Teens & safety and the new "talk”

Way to go, parents – 86.4% of teens say their parents have discussed online safety with them. That’s teen users of the social virtual world Habbo.com, anyway, but I suspect they’re very representative of teen social-networkers in general. Habbo recently completed its Teen Online Safety Awareness Month, which it says got “over 20,000 teens taking part in safety-related activities and educational programs, including many that involved discussion time between the teens and their parents. Nearly 21,000 teens received limited edition virtual safety badges to show that they had their parents read Habbo’s online safety guide. Nearly 10,000 teens visited a virtual lounge within the community with a safety theme.

On the sobering side, here are other key findings:

* 51.7% visit chat rooms at least once every day
* 18.5% have “experienced chatting online with someone they found out was an adult pretending to be much younger”
* 57.2% have “chatted, IM’d or emailed with someone online that they have never met face to face”
* 26.6% have “been asked questions about their sexuality or sexual experiences while chatting online that made them feel uncomfortable”
* 31.7% have posted personal information online
* 72.5% “are aware that anyone can view personal information they post online, not just their friends.”

BlogSafety Community: Parents & kids talk Net safety …

I am sincerely impressed with Habbo.com– no matter how “lego” in appearance (must be good if that’s my only dig). Habbo has taken some impressive steps to secure themselves as SECURE. Oh the security of it all.

I would like to see OTHER virtual worlds/mega-uber communities take on such initiatives and public safety services. And not just to “out do” other communities, or “make themselves APPEAR social conscious” but because this is an established medium that needs to get more credit.

These stats are nuts though. 31.7% have posted PERSONAL INFORMATION online? THIS is why we have human screeners/moderators.

Okay: this has been my experience in the last two years with kids/tweens online. They are VERY apprehensive at first. Many lurk. They observe. They get into the “mix” and still manage to hold onto some of that “stranger danger” mentality. Then, after a couple months they start to get used to the site and consider themselves “old school” and trust builds. That trust is what makes a deal breaker with any stranger-danger mentality. I’ve found that most kids after a month+ of regular posting start to get so comfortable that they’re willing to post personal information. This isn’t for ALL kids/tweens… but quite a few. “No one is going to hurt me here, I know all of these people.” –That is the mentality.

I must admit: there is a very small percentage of “pushers”

I consider a “pusher” to be a kid that needs to push the limit in the name of fun/boredom. They’re not regulars (usually), and typically leave a couple borderline CRUDE comments and their phone number/email address. Who knows if it actually IS there phone number… they’ll usually make some comment about looking for a “sexy” guy. Yes, guy– these “pushers” tend to be girls, or pretending to be girls. On our site, we usually get about 3 comments a month like this in our quote submission, fan fiction submission, or blog. Sometimes they’re cleverly disguised so that safety filters miss them. Like: “J5E5N5 I6F3E1R22. call me” or “My friends at yolanda at email dot com tell me i’m hot.”

Kids & Tweens & Teens are sneaky wee buggers, but isn’t that all a part of the learning experience? That’s why it’s so important for anyone dealing with tweens/teens/kids to have a strong understanding of their audience. Not just “I was a kid once” or “My community filter will clear that out.” This whole “anyone” can screen/moderate/interact/be trusted with children is unacceptable.

I saw a job description for Neopets screeners and I was ticked. Barely any information about safety or experience– basically it was a call to action for any bored hobo to hop off the train and hang with some kids online… sure there was “training” mentioned, but that’s not good enough in my mind. I am sorry… I may not have my own tater tots yet, but I can promise you– I wouldn’t want just any-old-schmoe monitoring my kids online or offline. That is for certain.

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  1. April 6, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Hi Izzy!

    First, let me tell you, girl – this blog is AWESOME. I’ve been reading it periodically for a while, and I am so impressed by your knowledge of MMO security, it’s just astounding. I especially appreciate your tips and recommendations, and share them frequently with our team.

    Second, I wanted to defend the job description for the Neopets Monitors. I didn’t write it (and yes, it can use some updating), but I’m the recruiter for Neopets at MTV, and I just wanted to assure you that even though that job description is super vague, our screening process is rigorous and thorough. As a mom, a Neopets player, and an MTV employee, I want to emphasize that we definitely are NOT hiring train-traveling hobos to monitor the site for criminals. Never! We are proud of our security team and their methods, and they will only continue to get better over time.

    It’s an old post, sure, but just wanted to put it out there that users (and their parents) can trust that we maintain a high standard when selecting employees at our company, and do our very best to make sure each and every user has a safe and enjoyable experience on the website.

  1. March 20, 2007 at 3:08 pm

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