Huh? & Noteworthy: Shidonni
Most of the virtual worlds for kids are tightly controlled, with restrictions on user-generated content – as you’d expect, given the age of their target audience. However, Shidonni is a new service that takes a different tack – letting kids create their own virtual worlds, create animals for them, and then share them with friends.
It uses Microsoft’s Silverlight technology, is aimed at 4-12 year-olds, and is the work of a company also called Shidonni. It sounds like a treat for creative kids: they start by drawing a creature, then drawing its environment (for example, mountains, the sun, sky). The idea is that it’s as easy to use as the easiest painting / photo-editing applications.
Tamagotchi elements come in when users create babies for their animals and then look after them. This is where the sharing comes in too: children can send their animals to the worlds of friends to visit, while also using them in various mini-games. Shidonni is due to launch commercially this Autumn, and CEO Ido Mazursky explains how the company is looking to win parental approval:
“Most of the games that are out there today are very violent. We want to create a world that is based on several principles. The first is creativity. Today children play mostly copy/paste games, or adaptations of existing things they see. We want kids to create for themselves. Because we believe that if the world doesn’t continue to develop products that teach children to create, we will become stagnant – people will stop creating, and we want to stimulate this.”
Maybe I’m behind in the times with this Silverlight stuff – but something smells odd here.
Maybe it’s just the wording with this article (which, hey, pot meet kettle), but the whole “Most of the virtual worlds for kids are tightly controlled” part of that passage kinda tosses me off the ride. While others are concerned with making words appropriate and safe for the demo (which parents are CLEARLY appeased with, because that’s what is selling to the folks back home), we just want your kids to go willy nilly?
Is that it?
I’m sure it isn’t, but still… I need to do some heavy duty research into this Silverlight, as well as how Shidonni plans on supporting COPPA as well just just “good policy” all around.
Anyone have any info on this? Let’s play SHARE THE KNOWLEDGE….
Don’t get me wrong – letting kids go hogwild with paint = awesome. Kids are amazing, and for the most part they’re well behaved with best intentions. Again, awesome. And yes, sometimes I’m a hypocrite when it comes to the definition of “empowerment” (okay, maybe not hypocrite, more like izzy’s definition of empowerment that isn’t well defined outside of her own head). When it comes to social networking – this market is so young and so ill-prepared to deal with the ramifications of choices made by minors who have no life-experience/understanding of said-choices. We really don’t have any TRUE data about how this BOOM of this instantaneous-social-connection-sharing will affect young participants in 20 years. 10 years. FIVE YEARS. So… if I seem nervous about TOO much freedom for kids ONLINE, it’s because I don’t have any clue what the possible outcomes might be… only guesses and hopes. And don’t forget – we’re still trying to learn what UGC really means – WHO OWNS THE CONTENT? Are you REALLY the creator? Rrrreally?
Ack, besides, on another tangential point, it’s bad enough we have Google making Lively easy for anyone with a gmail account (which, as we’ve chatted about before – nearly all kids have email by the time they’re 7, or at least that’s my finding with camp & classroom work) can dive into WITHOUT much safety (or youthful provisions), and same with Rocketon – which I haven’t even wrapped my head around yet, but freaks me out in a mother-bear kinda way. Ugh. Actually, you can stick both Lively & Rocketon in my Mother Bear “i want to claw you before you even approach my cubs” box.
Anyway, back to Shidonni… what sayest thou? Any news to qualm fears? Any facts to clear up assumptions and misconceptions?
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