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Zuckerberg wants children under 13 on Facebook?

May 20, 2011 1 comment

Zuckerberg said he wants younger kids to be allowed on social networking sites like Facebook. Currently, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) mandates that websites that collect information about users (like Facebook does) aren’t allowed to sign on anyone under the age of 13. But Zuckerberg is determined to change this.

“That will be a fight we take on at some point,” he said. “My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age.”

But just how would Facebook’s social features be used by younger children?

“Because of the restrictions we haven’t even begun this learning process,” Zuckerberg said. “If they’re lifted then we’d start to learn what works. We’d take a lot of precautions to make sure that they [younger kids] are safe.”

http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2011/05/20/zuckerberg-kids-under-13-should-be-allowed-on-facebook/

Here are my first thoughts.

1. PESSIMISM: Of course Mark Zuckerberg wants kids on Facebook – Facebook is a advertising & trend analysis GOLD MINE dressed as a happy, friend-connecting social network.  Kids are the largest licensing group, and advertisers would LOVE to get their hands on that kind of market.

So much for the ENTIRE POINT OF COPPA – which wasn’t created for your immediate privacy, but created to PROTECT CHILDREN FROM MARKETERS STEALING OR SWINDLING PII.

Fail.

Also see: Facebook Forced to Address Legal Gray Area of Kids and Advertising from AdAge. http://adage.com/article/digital/facebook-forced-address-kids-advertising/227633/

2. FEAR: Oh, that’s a GREAT idea.  Why not make more PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION ABOUT MINORS available?  Tre sigh.  Yes, education is VERY important – particularly about secret identities.  But, children under the age of 13 DO NOT HAVE THE COGNITIVE CAPABILITIES TO BE SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR PUBLIC PERSONA.  Part of being young is that you’re protected and allowed to make mistakes – by allowing that on Facebook – a public platform that reaches far beyond the lunch room, and far beyond your mom telling your aunt about that stupid detention you got?  BOO.  Not ideal.

3. LOGISTICS & CONCERNS: MODERATION. SCALABILITY. COST. Even if Facebook DID man up and start pre-screening all content contributed by U13 sources, what a nightmare!  Staff to cover something like that?  Insane.  And neither revenue nor cost efficient.

4. HOPE: Any sort of “educational program” that comes with U13 on Facebook would have to be an entire new entity.  Think: Facebook Junior, profile training wheels.  It would have to be limited, with tutorials and information, and educational guidance.  Leverage the sort of YouTube content that SweetyHigh has created (worth checking out).  But in no way, would Facebook be able to cruise right into allowing U13 without redesigning the fundamental/core use of Facebook.

4. REALITY: I deal EVERY SINGLE DAY with kid chat, and kid posts, and kid interactions, and behavior crises from U13.  I worry about social networks for children that do NOT rely on fantastical role play or themed-content.  Those two elements help protect direct attacks (or even mistaken, indirect attacks) on a sensitive and underdeveloped child by allowing creative persona & identity hiding (to a certain extent, of course – real friends playing in fantasy worlds blends that reality vs role play, and takes interaction to a different level).  Children are still in the process of social learning.  Social learning CAN be expanded – and I do applaud the idea of social network education… but tossing youth into the deep end, where there are daily Trojan attacks on accounts, stolen identity issues & account phishing, cyberbullying, advertising lures, and STRANGERS is not ideal.  Think about it: not even normal, rational adults can successfully navigate Facebook accurately…

If there is a way for Zuckerberg to incorporate social networking education, with Facebook structure, I’m eager to see it – but there are quite a few MASSIVE problems in his path.  And with this audience?  Bowling through the ideals without proper guidance, understanding, or safety nets = not a safe agenda.

I hope Zuck collects his facts, has the necessary research concluded, and (excuse the phrase) gets his shizzz straight before he really dives into something like this.  For as much as I applaud optimistic philosophy, I desire educated practicality.

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Engage! Expo Conference Prezzie

September 27, 2010 1 comment

Hello, hello. Long time no talk. Yes, I realize this, and I send my apologies.

Last week (Sept 22nd), I spoke at the Engage! Expo conference in Santa Clara on User Engagement – aka, the art of engaging users (specifically online gamers 13 and younger, although you could argue for a General rating).  It wasn’t one of my most stellar performances, I drown a bit in having FAR too much to say… but I successfully rambled a few decent points & tales, and hopefully shared some new understandings as well.

I am always grateful to the Engage! Expo team (Tonda you’re amazing), and it was great meeting some new people.

Now, prepare yourself for some Heavy. Duty. Slide. Action.  I Powerpointed it up HARD CORE (my speech teacher would be throwing ninja stars at me if he knew).  Luckily, many people have contacted me asking for my Powerpoint slides… so, I am providing a video of them here.

Questions, comments, problems, scenarios, rambles, quips, complaints, queries, and soliloquies should be directed to the comment section of this post.  I’ll do my best to get back to you.

Things I’m kickin’ myself for leaving out: Monetization and the “velvet rope”, How to use live staff well,  the Parental Unit, and The fine art of event planning and support.  Thank god there’s always future conferences – I can do a “Part Two” slide set 😉

The Conundrum that is Planet Cazmo

August 2, 2010 6 comments

Planet Cazmo is going to partner with Fox’s Teen Choice 2010 awards and entertainment mogul Tony Mottola to create a custom virtual environment called the Virtual Teen Choice Beach Party. The special virtual environment will be directly accessible from a link on the Teen Choice Website. The Teen Choice 2010 awards will air August 9 at 8 EST on Fox Users will be able to visit the virtual beach party after casting their votes online.

In the Virtual Teen Choice Beach Party, users will be able to design an avatar and a virtual home. In the virtual world, users can chat, play mini-games, virtually dance, and even purchase virtual goods. One of the goods for sale will be a branded good shaped like the award show’s signature Teen Choice Surfboard. This won’t be the first virtual event Planet Cazmo has developed for a major brand or celebrity partner. Previous projects developed by Planet Cazmo were primarily virtual concerts or music-themed, though.

Virtual Teen Choice Beach Party

Okay… So, wow.

First, I do find it absolutely RAD that Planet Cazmo has broken the start-up, non-uber-brand IP curse and managed to score such a marketing bonanza as TEEN CHOICE AWARDS on Fox.  That’s kinda huge.  Brings in the eyeballs – aka, sudden brand awareness.

For the last two years I’ve watched Planet Cazmo score quite a few influential contracts with big music peeps… They’re freakin’ email machines – no one sends as many newsletters as this site… seriously.  There is always something going on it seems.

The art is easy, not too complex. The world is expansive (almost too expansive, but they try to pack everyone into the same server- providing the PARTY! feel of busy-busy).

Again, I’m still floored by their marketing department and promotions… well played for such high profile awesomeness.

PROBLEM: I just logged in as a minor and was able to share “my” phone number (or, ya know, the Empire Carpet guy’s number, five eight eight two three zero zero), “my” address (or, ya know, the white house), amongst other things.  Then I created another account, logged in, and watched myself say the same content all over again (aka, the public can read it, its not just author-only jedi-mind-trickin’).

At least they caught “shadows are as dark as holes” – but as holes, for as swarthy a curse as it is in kid land, is NOT A LEGAL PROBLEM.

I can’t believe I just logged in, approved my “child” via email plus, and then passed out faux-personal information.  What the what?!  AND THEY’RE GOING UBER-PUBLIC WITH A TV SPONSORSHIP!  It makes me very, very nervous for them.

Talk about disappointed.  I’ve been dealing with several companies lately that are looking to ensure that they’re sponsorships/partnerships/etc with youth virtual worlds are LOCKED DOWN and safe… why the heck didn’t Fox check into the legal nature of Planet Cazmo?

I’m still absolutely astounded that I could give addresses and phone numbers. Baffled, even.

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NFL Agrees: There are some issues for Teens with digital dating

February 5, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW YORK, Feb. 4 (UPI) — The National Football League Players
Association has joined Family Violence Prevention Fund to stop digital dating abuse, the union said Thursday.

The NFLPA and the FVPF have launched a national public service
advertising campaign designed to help teens recognize online dating
abuse and prevent it from happening with e-cards called “That’s Not
Cool.”

The campaign invites teens to create their own “Callout Cards” that
can be used to raise awareness of teen dating abuse and win cool
prizes, with the grand prize winner receiving a trip to Washington to
attend players’ gala later this year.

NFL players to fight digital dating abuse – UPI.com

I’m going to be perfectly honest: I have no idea what this is about.

Things I see & assume:
1. Based on my tenure in moderation: Digital dating (or, more particularly – digital explicit sexually charged conversations) are on the rise, and kinda sketch – and for tweens/early teens in social gaming, these relationships are with people they meet online.

2. Based on what I’ve seen from teens in social networks & real life dating – they are not ashamed of explicit content nor do they hide their highly charged, uber-sexual social exploration (example: a 13 year old relative of mine posted lyrics to a song which suggested the sexual act. Her boyfriend of the moment commented on her status saying, “you mean you wanna f*ck”. Our whole family can see these comments, and neither seem to care).

3. Sports social gaming / etc sites, that I’ve visited, have had the most – THE MOST – aggressive audience, if we’re talking about tweens/teens.  Why?  They’re not getting the adrenaline payoff or euphora-burst they would get from a hard fought game, or from a big-win as a fan.  Due to most of the sites treating sportsfans like adult-kids (stat tracking and not emphasizing the playground crazy love of sports & games), they are looking for social competition – and from there its all an equation, right?

Hormones of demographic + need for euphora + competitive drive + strength and determination + excitement + social environment + boredom + mixed gender avatars of cartoon-cuteness = forms of dating abuse? …Perhaps… It might be a leap, or it might make sense… up to you how you want to swallow that pill.

4. The current plight of mega-star athletes and their, ahem, discretions (and inability to stay faithful, perhaps? …Tiger, Shaq, Kobe, and the many, many football players who are outted in the press – wasn’t there a football player killed last year by his mistress?)

Whatever the NFL’s reasons for this campaign – I say thank you.  I like to believe that every little bit helps, and if the NFL wants to help an image, I think this is a smart path.

Why?  Technological education is NEEDED – but not just “math blaster” education, but a variety of support that reflect digital lives AND offline lives.  This is an excellent example, just as Sweety High’s youtube videos about cyberbullying and netiquette.

Problems teens/tweens are experiencing online are now very much reflecting problems offline, and vice versa.  Finding new ways to educate and empower youth to protect themselves, build a voice, find a mentor, become a mentor, protect others, better themselves, believe in the systems surrounding them, etc… the better off we will all be.

Long story short, I’m hoping for good things of this initiative, and I hope they don’t drop the ball (muhohahahaha, sorry, i love with a pun works well with a story).  There’s something here, and it’d be nice to see the NFL support it for the long haul, and with a boisterous voice, yeah?  None of this “PR” schtick and hide.  Fingers crossed.

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Nick and the inappropriate game links

January 12, 2010 Leave a comment

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) is a group which aims to stop the effect that corporate marketing has on children. Based in Boston, this group has a list of several dozen campaigns such as “CCFC to Nick and Burger King: SpongeBob and Sexualization Don’t Mix!” and “Stop PG-13 Blockbusters from Targeting Preschoolers”. The group has now targeted Nick.com for promoting its sister-site, AddictingGames.com, because the latter site contains “sexualized and violent” flash games like Sorority Panty Raid, Naughty Classroom and Perry the Sneak. CCFC requests that NickJr.com and Nick.com stop linking to such content “to children as young as preschoolers.”

The Escapist : News : Nickelodeon Taken To Task For “Inappropriate” Game Links

Zoinks!  Click the link above for more information regarding this…

Typically sites need to have some sort of:

A) URL Clicking Policy – I subscribe to the two clicks method (used to be three clicks method, but times change).  If I can get to inappropriate content within TWO clicks of a main page – that’s not good.  My problem?  Social media and the idea of the “e” audience… aka EVERYONE.  So many people are using Facebook and Twitter as community tools to help engage a wide-reaching audience.  I understand this… but here’s my problem: even if I control the content seen on my facebook page, and even if I control the content on my twitter account… I can’t control the content of the people who friend me.  So, if you’re in my facebook group, I can click on your picture in my “friends” box and possibly access inappropriate content. Le sigh.  This is a sketchy area and I feel as a community/safety profession I lose ground on this almost by the month.

B) Bumper page – the intention of bumper pages is to help young users “pause” in their link-clicking and rethink their decision to leave that site, as the site they’re traveling to is not under their power, and content may appear that shouldn’t.  But… if Viacom owns the sites in question – why would they bumper page their own content? 

It’s something you need to talk about, be aware of, and try to form policy or decisions around… don’t get caught.

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Lookie Lookie: Wizard101 has the cookie!

January 7, 2010 Leave a comment

One game, however, stood out among the rest as the Best Family Game of 2009. The nominees were:

  • Club Penguin
  • Free Realms
  • Fusion Fall
  • Maplestory
  • Wizard 101

The Winner: Wizard 101

Wizard 101 has been heralded as the kid’s MMO for adults. The game is geared toward a younger audience with its playful characters and cartoon graphics, but don’t be fooled by its exterior. Inside Wizard 101 is an intense MMO that uses great special effects for spells, daring and risky card game style combat, and a fun universe to explore for players.

The reason Wizard 101 takes home our Best Family Game of 2009 is because kids can play it with their parents and no one will be bored. Hardcore MMO players have come forward and said the game is fun and exciting to them as well.

Wizard 101 : Best Family Game of 2009 – Wizard 101 for PC at MMORPG.COM

LOOKIE LOOKIE, WHO HAS THE COOKIE!

YAHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  I am really pleased with this out come.  For as much as I still nod-in-appreciation to Club Penguin, this is really a well-deserved win.

Think about it:
Wizard101 came from an independent company without broadcast support (aka, no big dog marketing pushes, like Disney / Cartoon Network / MTV / Sony, etc).  It was smart enough to find an IP that could be both independent in content & game play, but also capitalize on a desired-yet-missing brand (HARRY POTTER, PEOPLE). 

It’s got boy game play, girl game play, school play, card play, and it effectively finds ways to suck a wallet drive (subscription only gets you so far – potions & rides/mounts are extra $$).

It’s the MMO I play as often as I can, and because I ENJOY playing it – not just for work / research.

What I’d like to see Wizard101 do in the next year?
1. Make houses more important – why do I care I’m in the Fire house? Why do I care others are in the Fire house?  Give me reasons to be Fire-House-Evangelist in the game, please!

2. Change the chat set up.  By “redding” out the words that I cannot use – you are giving me clues to work-arounds.  OH, I can’t say “dork”? Well then, let me try “door k” DONE. Thanks red for telling me WHICH WORDS weren’t allowed, and confusing me other times when you’re not allowing me to say something I need to say (like “fizzling”).

Other than those two wee things – keep on keeping on, Wizard101. I’m psyched for you!!

ON a SIDE note… why the heck is MapleStory in there? Um, last time I played that game a guild named “Pedophile” was causing rukus through the servers… Kids swear like they’re afraid its going out of style, it’s Ad Mad, and it’s not family appropriate.

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Virtual Worlds and Youth: Accessing Explicit Content

December 10, 2009 2 comments

FTC Report Finds Sexually and Violently Explicit Content in Online Virtual Worlds Accessed by Minors

Recommends Best Practices to Shield Children and Teens

The Federal Trade Commission today issued a report that examines the incidence of
sexually and violently explicit content in online virtual worlds. The congressionally mandated report, “Virtual Worlds and Kids: Mapping the Risks,” urges operators of virtual worlds to take a number of steps to keep explicit content away from children and teens, and recommends that parents familiarize themselves with the virtual worlds their kids visit.

The report analyzes how easily minors can access explicit content in virtual worlds, and the measures virtual world operators take to prevent minors from viewing it. According to the findings, although little explicit content appeared in child-oriented virtual worlds, a moderate to heavy amount appeared in virtual worlds that are designed for teens and adults.

Virtual worlds are popular with children and adults because they blend 3-D environments with online social networking, allowing users to interact in and shape their own online content. Through avatars – digital representations controlled by humans in real time – virtual world users socialize, network, play, or even conduct business in graphics-intensive landscapes using text or voice chat, sounds, gestures, and video. Despite the educational, social, and creative opportunities virtual worlds offer, the FTC’s report found that explicit content exists, free of charge, in online virtual worlds that minors are able to access. In fact, some virtual worlds designed for teens and adults allow – or even encourage – younger children to get around the worlds’ minimum age requirements.

“It is far too easy for children and young teens to access explicit content in some of these virtual worlds,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “The time is ripe for these companies to grow up and implement better practices to protect kids.”

The FTC surveyed 27 online virtual worlds – including those specifically intended for young children, worlds that appealed to teens, and worlds intended only for adults. The FTC found at least one instance of either sexually or violently explicit content in 19 of the 27 worlds. The FTC observed a heavy amount of explicit content in five of the virtual worlds studied, a moderate amount in four worlds, and only a low amount in the remaining 10 worlds in which explicit content was found.

Of the 14 virtual worlds in the FTC’s study that were, by design, open to children under age 13, seven contained no explicit content, six contained a low amount of such content, and one contained a moderate amount. Almost all of the explicit content found in the child-oriented virtual worlds appeared in the form of text posted in chat rooms, on message boards, or in discussion forums.

FTC Report Finds Sexually and Violently Explicit Content in Online Virtual Worlds Accessed by Minors

HEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEE WE GOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Okay, for as much as I would love (and you know I would) to ramble ramble ramble about my opinions on this piece, I am going to stay MUM.

Why, you ask? Well, because according to engageexpo.com, I am (and very happily so) speaking on this VERY topic with Phyllis Marcus, who was commissioned by the FTC to research and report on youth and virtual worlds.

Safety in Online Worlds: How the Federal Trade Commission Sees It
In March of 2009, Congress mandated that the Federal Trade Commission study the types of content available in online virtual worlds — paying close attention to explicit sexual and violent content — and the mechanisms those worlds use to manage access by minors. In this unique session, the Commission’s senior most attorney assigned to the 2009 Virtual Worlds Report to Congress will present results and discuss the agency’s recommendations for strengthening access controls to virtual worlds while allowing free expression to flourish online. This first-ever analysis of virtual worlds by the FTC will be discussed by senior attorney Phyllis H. Marcus who heads the Commission’s children’s privacy program and is responsible for enforcing the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Marcus expects this session to be the first detailed public reveal of her division’s nine-month study of virtual world content. She will present data, offer recommendations, and participate in a lively one-on-one interview with virtual world child safety advocate and online community activist Izzy Neis.
Phyllis H. Marcus, senior attorney, Div of Advertising Practices, FTC’s COPPA lead
Izzy Neis, Senior Community Safety Lead, Gazillion Entertainment

http://www.engageexpo.com/ny2010/schedule/track2.html

Score, right? Right. Couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity 🙂

I’m looking forward to this, especially after reading the article on the FTC page, and subsequently skimming through the document while printing (it’s a relatively good sized print, fyi).

I’ve never been shy to discuss the social (and sometimes sexual) exploration of youth in free, identity-less (or identity-filled) web environments – from Language play in phrases to bumping to sexting to warplay.  Playgrounds can be a very confusing/odd place for those who do not understand or are not a part of the intricate socialization patterns and learning curve.  And even for those of us who DO understand these same things, it’s still nerve-wrecking and frightening to behold (don’t even get me started on my 13 year old cousin’s behavior on facebook).  But, we react that way because we MUST.  It’s the elder’s duty to help guide and educate the young.  But, that’s not always enough (this doesn’t mean stop, it just means, more is needed).

We cannot expect kids to just inherently know NOT to behave certain ways – especially if that behavior or action can illicit some sort of euphoria or adrenaline rush.  They don’t learn “No, don’t do that” through osmosis.  Fire = bright & warm & pretty & powerful, but you don’t know it hurts until you touch it… you could listen to your folks who say “don’t touch the fire, it burns”, but the curiosity will always be there because you don’t precisely understand the magnitude of “it burns”.

Naturally, someone has to say it – NO, don’t do that.  And when youth refuse to listen (and when they decide to touch the fire), we have to be there to guide, educate, and then PICK THEM UP once they learn their lessons, or after they suffer the consequences… and then, encourage them to share their lessons with others – peer mentorship.

Also, as businesses we need to EMPLOY WELL EQUIPPED, HIGHLY CAPABLE, HIGHLY TRAINED MODERATORS & COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT STAFF… and give them time to DO THE JOB RIGHT.

Moderation is expensive. It just is… Before you even contemplate the idea of “moderation” and how to lower the cost for a teen & younger site – companies really, truly need to accept it.  Say it out loud. Do a little jig. Throw a party. Make a badge and wear it everyone “YOUTH MODERATION AND ONLINE COMMUNITIES ARE EXPENSIVE”, and then swallow that pain.  NO amount of cheating  or pinching the system is going to replace the expense without putting your audience or your brand at risk, UNLESS you employ full restrictions. Full. Restrictions. As in, no UGC – this includes user created avatarnames/usernames, open or filtered or dictionary chat, no pictures, or uploads, no fan fiction, no forums, no blog posts, videos, podcasts, art, nothing. Kinda takes the community out of community, doesn’t it? Yep – remember that jig you did and that badge you wore… there’s your reason.

If a user can type or upload and submit – that’s UGC, and it needs moderation before it ever appears on any live site.

User Generated Content is a privilege for your audience, but also a privilege for your site/brand/ip/experience as a company.  With privilege comes someone else’s responsibility, and that lies with the company to offer opportunity.  Think about it 😉

Anyway… take a look at the FTC article (link above) and follow the white link rabbit to the pdf itself.  Happy reading!!

Annnnnnnnnd, if you’re going to be in attendance for Engage Expo on February 16th & 17th in New York City, please bring some of your lovely and oh-so-brazilliant questions to the 3:30-4:30 chat on Weds the 17th.  I would love to see your smiling faces and bask in your question-filled glory. 😀

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