So yeah… I got ‘bumped’

Last night at the Common Sense Media event–> regarding what youth are learning from Virtual Worlds… I did a little learning myself.

It was brought to my attention that there is a behavioral epidemic happening in popular lower tween (twid) site: Club Penguin.

Now, part of my awesome job is that I get to research & explore & play in virtual worlds.  And part of my bloggin’ lifestyle is that I get to share with you (whomever YOU are).

So, I’ve got this penguin that I use to provoke behavior in the Club Penguin world.  I usually do lame, dumb stuff to see how the community as a whole reacts (are they going to bully me? join? etc).  In one location within the CP world there is a map on the lower left side of the screen.  I like to position my darling penguin behind that map– so you can’t see it, and say annoyingly insane things like “You cant see me.” and “Help. I’m hiding.” and “Hiding, hiding, hiding. I’m clever.”  Stupid instigation stuff that I also find quite humorous.  Typically penguins will come and try to help me, or they just stand next to the map watching my text box pop up.

Well, this past Monday I was showing some of the guys I work with some of my pied piper ways (leading kids to do silly things en masse) and I pulled the old “I’m hiding” trick.  Well, weird things started happening.  Penguins would walk up with hearts in the text boxes above their heads and bump into my penguin until I was in the corner, stuck, getting..well…BUMPED like bumper cars.  I thought they were retaliating against my insanity, so I was well entertained and eventually freed myself from the corner to go and toss snowballs at the score sign (ultimately blocking out the numbers in a graffiti like manner– usually I can get the entire room doing the same thing without uttering a word).

Well, last night I was informed that currently there is a problem in the ole Penguin world where boy penguins would show heart signs to girl penguins and either invite them to the corner of the page, or back to their igloo for a cup of coffee.  You get where I’m going with this?  Yes.  Ever the curious little monkeys, boys and girls are stumbling through the curiosity of SEX in the parent-penguin-child friendly virtual space.

Sex to a kid is naughty, exciting, and completely a mystery.  They have no idea what it really is (really really).  Sex & sexy sleep over behavior is on television so frequently these days– alluded to EVEN in family comedies– for humor or drama points.  It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that kids are finding ways to explore this “mystery” amongst themselves.  It’s still freakin’ creepy though.  I mean… when I found out my poor little penguin got “bumped” I freaked (just ask Anastasia from ypulse, who brought me into the conversation about the issue).  But really– this stuff is exactly EXACTLY why there are moderators in virtual worlds, and why I’m still BAFFLED as to why companies (like Webkinz, Barbiegirls, etc) don’t make themselves well known in the parent world.  I’d want to know who is protecting my children, or at least the practices in which they do indeed protect my child.

But that’s besides the point.  Parents– your penguins are bumping.  And if they’re not, keep in mind that other’s are bumping.  Don’t freak out about it– it’s a fact of life, learning, and growth.  Just monitor and/or explain/inform/educate as you see fit.   In the mean time, peeps like me will find ways to help gently deter this type of behavior (we don’t need to scar kids & their exploration… just gently remove it from online social environments and make sure innocent penguins get the bumps no more…).

  1. November 16, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    I’ve kind of seen the weirdness of ‘kissing’ on Club Penguin so perhaps I’ve seen bumping, too. So far it seems that girls are moer interested in ‘kissing’ than boys. They are also the ones who tend to ask “boy or girl?” and who send up more heart icons. What do you think?

    At least you have some concerns about CP, which seem fair. The report that I read about the session on kids virtual reality seemed to optimistic to me. So I blogged about that today. Most parents I meet are pessimistic about CP and all virtual worlds.

  2. November 26, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    I’ll add that when we did CP testing in our younger tween groups at Shaping Youth, the girls would get incredibly flattered at being asked to a party or igloo or what not…and yes, there was some ‘preteen’ exploration in terms of odd girl out stuff/who likes whom etc. penguins getting mad at each other for not being invited to other flapper’s ice floes etc.—but we started exploring in other worlds and left CP alone for awhile, so bumping is new to me…hmn.

    Izzy, we really need you as a virtual world correspondent now that you’re ‘inside’ and being paid to hang out & test…As a nonprofit we just can’t be everywhere at once, and though I’m trying to get more youth interns, as well as teen hackers to ‘test run’ YOU know what it is I’m looking for already, with balanced reporting…so ping me and let’s dialogue on this further. What can I offer you? Name it! (besides greenbacks so hard to come by, sigh)

  3. September 27, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Yes, I do agree that there needs to be people moderating the website, and protecting your children on Club Penguin, but it is YOU, the parents, who need to decide for themselves on what their children do on
    the Internet. YOU are the ones who should be teaching their kids right from wrong.

  1. November 29, 2009 at 10:50 pm

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