Kids Outsmarting the Safe System

It stands to reason that bullying happens in kids’ virtual worlds (e.g., Club Penguin, Webkinz, Neopets, Nicktropolis, etc.), because, well, it happens in school, instant messaging, and social-networking sites. But I hadn’t learned how it happened until Sharon Duke Estroff called me about it. The Atlanta-based parenting columnist, former elementary school teacher, kids’ pop culture expert, author, and mother of four spent a couple of weeks in Club Penguin to learn what her eight-year-old son might experience there. She didn’t like everything she saw.


Anne from NetFamilyNews is amazing (first of all), and secondly, she put together this great list of “work arounds” that kids do to get by the system (with the help of Sharon Duke Estroff, mentioned above).

I SINCERELY hope you click that link above and check out her expanded/detailed list.  Here’s the short gist of what she notes:

  1. Beating the language filter
  2. Code lingo
  3. ID theft, kid-style
  4. Stealing virtual possessions
  5. Abusing abuse reporting
  6. Using safety features to bully
  7. Digital “Spin the Bottle”
  8. Kid avatars have cheats too

These are types of interactions & user choices happen constantly – not always at the UTMOST degree, but balance between slight to extreme ranges.  And again, they happen constantly.

Here’s one of my favorite Moderation Department Educational Videos that I’ve found of youtube (ignore the Sonic the Hedgehog beginning):


Basically – there are hundreds of youtube videos to watch of kids getting banned or testing the system in VARIOUS youth virtual worlds.

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  1. July 20, 2008 at 8:12 am

    Izzy, the clarity of the type isn’t showing up for me, can you send me the links? Some of our tween testers (game girls) are squinting to see what’s going on within this…btw, did you see Anastasia’s little clip on the Early Show on the ‘avatars behaving badly’ bit? I’m trying to stay optimistic and think that this is more ‘challenge the system/hacker-esque to ‘prove they can’ rather than evil-meister-minions wreaking havoc on virtual worlds…but sheesh…sad state of flippers.

    p.s. Anne IS fabulous, and I’m about to post a query on her NetFamilyNews asking about the safety/chat of Meebo rooms, since I haven’t delved deeper beyond just the back-end conference room use just yet. Any feedback on Meebo?

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