A Safety Concern in VW

Normally we report on who’s new to virtual worlds, not who’s avoiding them. But like Yahoo, it’ just odd to see FAO Schwarz without a virtual worlds play. With toy companies like MGA Entertainment, Mattel, Ty, and Hasbro making pushes for toy-based tie-ins, not to mention the recently successful Build-a-Bearville, you’d expect one of the largest toy brands in the world to be leading the pack. However, Internet Retailer reports that while FAO is big on expanding its website, “[CEO Edward] Schmults says he has considered community features for kids, including adding a virtual world feature, but is concerned about the potential for abuse by predators.” He says, though, that he has plans to meet with an interactive marketing firm to hash out community features, so the concerns might be only a temporary delay. [via Internet Retailer via Virtual Economic Forum]

Virtual Worlds News: FAO Schwarz Worried About Safety in Virtual Worlds

It’s nice to see that companies are concerned about the results of deciding to introduce a community to their online presence.  That’s a responsible thought process from a company that has good intentions and a wish of welfare for their audience.  That’s great.

Now to the truth.  Creating a safe environment isn’t nearly as difficult as making sure you can scale it– that you have the CONTINUING funds to sustain it, and improve it. 

If you hire the right people and build the right landscape, you have most of the control in your hands, and there should be no cause to worry about the audiences’ safety.    Set up series of checks and balances, ensure that all programs within your world reinforce your safety concerns, as well as the staff who maintains it.  Build strategies and theorize the perimeters of your environment.  Hire a staff of well trained professionals who not ONLY have worked with children and understand communities online… BUT ALSO have represented brands before.  Take the necessary time it takes to create your army and playground, test all walls and rules, and enhance improve and then finally– open your doors.

Wouldn’t you RATHER create a safe online community playground, where you KNOW your audience would be safe… then say, leaving them to NON SAFE arenas????

I’d rather compete with 100+ new virtual environments for youth that are safe… then be the solitary king of the mountain with nothing but unsafe teen+ environments for U13 youth to explore.

Trust your team, trust your brand… yes, there will always be creeps out there trying to bust the system… but have faith in what you built, and that the people who built it also have the best intentions as well as a true obligation to safety. 

I’ve spoken to a LOT of youth community managers over the last few years.  All of us have safety as the first and foremost speaking point.  It is our obligation to work our arses off to ensure the audience is safe and our staff is on guard.  It’s a hard, long hours job, but it’s worth it.

But you know what makes a healthy community the easiest– especially for youth?  Execs & companies who are socially responsible.  Organizations that have the safety of the audience high high high on their priority scale.  Cartoon Network has done a BRILLZ job.  They hired an exec level professional who’s sole purpose is to ensure social responsibility for all their products.  I can’t wait to see FusionFall this year– everything I’ve seen and heard about it has suggested it to be extremely safe MMO. 

Okay, end of soap box rant.  Clearly I love my job, and I love this market.  So many possibilities for awesomeness.  I dig FAO Schwartz is cautious about this playfield (too bad they pulled their store from Chicago– boo!), so I hope that when they DO enter this market, they bring some amazing new safety techniques & general super-fun-yay. 

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  1. February 5, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    Thanks for sharing these valued kids toys thoughts. I’m bookmarking this for future reference, as the points resonated strongly with me. Keep feeding the creativity.
    I am currently travelling so, for this reason, I’ve nothing better to do than surf the web for toys for my kids, lie around and update my blog. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

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