How the Public Interprets COPPA-Prompted Age Restrictions
Most parents and youth believe that the age requirements that they encounter when signing up to various websites are equivalent to a safety warning. They interpret this limitation as: “This site is not suitable for children under the age of 13.” While this might be true, that’s not actually what the age restriction is about. Not only does COPPA fail to inform parents about the appropriateness of a particular site, but parental misinterpretations of the age restrictions mean that few are aware that this stems from an attempt to protect privacy.
While many parents do not believe that social network sites like Facebook and MySpace are suitable for young children, they often want their children to have access to other services that have age restrictions (email, instant messaging, video services, etc.). Often, parents cite that these tools enable children to connect with extended family; Skype is especially important to immigrant parents who have extended family outside of the US. Grandparents were most frequently cited as the reason why parents created accounts for their young children. Many parents will create accounts for children even before they are literate because the value of connecting children to family outweighs the age restriction. When parents encourage their children to use these services, they send a conflicting message that their kids eventually learn: ignore some age limitations but not others.
I really, truly encourage you to head over to the link above and read the beginning and end (I sectioned only a portion) of Danah’s post. She’s right.
Back when I was an early blogger, I used to get frustrated with the casual nonchalance of parents who let their kids watch Youtube, then create accounts, and then post videos (ack!)… teachers/parents who friended their U13 kids on myspace and facebook and twitter (blergh). There are a lot of these conflicts-of-interest I see happening regarding the dynamic between parents & children accessing the social/entertainment world online. As the years have gone by, I’ve stopped ranting so much about these other social media sites. I just try to make sure that the wee corners of the interwebs that I touch have some sort of care, logic, appropriateness to them.
Having said that… I, fortunately & unfortunately, have the hands-on experience working with Age Gates from one stance NOT mentioned in Danah’s post…. youth-targeted sites.
Age gates = have been a battle for many a kids biz. Frustration points I’ve encountered, or had others relay to me:
1. Most kids, teens, adults, parents don’t even bother putting in the right info – they just choose the easiest option (either the pre-populated date or January 1, 2011) from the scroll gate option. > Now they’re caught in the filter.
2. The session cookies. Yes, I think on many levels a session cookie is necessary (why would you have a gate if they can cheat the gate?). However, as mentioned by Danah, and my point 1 above – parents / adults either put in the easiest information OR they put in their CHILD’S information… > Now they’re caught in the filter and frustrated (CS ticket if you’re lucky).
3. How do you determine a child from an adult when receiving a poorly spelled (btw, yes, many parents do not spend time editting and their emails often look like a child’s – identities have been tested and proven via phone conversations, arrrg!) CS ticket regarding the age gate? Fun times. > Now they’re caught in the filter. Cookie sessioned. And possibly a poorly educated parent looking for a bit of help for their kid.
4. TIP OFF LANGUAGE – Due to the FTC & Safe Harbor Co’s attempts at trying to keep some sort of legitimate gate-action happening… This is frustrating to navigate. I agree with the need for non-tip-off language, however, this can get really questionable fast when you really start to analyze the language you’re using to explain how to use the age gate without explaining how to defeat the age gate. > Now they are caught in the age gate, cookie sessioned out, confused by why, with CS tickets submitted and no where to go…
5. Every biz wants kids to enter the lists for their closed Beta… but you can’t have a minor agree to the legal documents associated to a Closed Beta session. Ruh roh, age gates doing what they’re supposed to do against the need for the site… > Rock, meet hard place. Also, add in: Caught in the age gate, cookie sessioned out, confused by why, with CS tickets submitted, no where to go, and now questioning the legitimacy of a kids site that won’t let kids in…
Ruh Roh + Fail whale? Or age gate success? Tre sigh.
I’m not going to give you my solutions to these frustrations, but having pointed them out, hopefully you’ll understand some of the yellow flags out there regarding Age Gates. Every little heads-up helps, yeah? I hope so.
Now go read Danah Boyd. She’s much more eloquent than I am today… ;-)
This fine young man has a different type of impact on the community. He impacts more users … without his participation, about 2% of the community no longer participates. He does not impact the total oxygen of the community as much, in other words, he doesn’t impact the number of tweets or number of conversations. But he does bring along 2% of the community. And his impact lasts through the forecast cycle, meaning he impacts new participants as well.
This exercise can be run for every user in a community. We can easily forecast what impact each user has on the overall future of a community. By looking forward, we get to see what might happen, and we can take steps to change the future. When we simply look back into the past, we only measure what happened in the past.
In this simple example, when we remove just two users from a community of about four hundred weekly participants, we lose close to 8% of all future activity in this community. In spite of a ton of new users, these two folks, @michelehinojosa and @immeria, foster a wonderful and vibrant community. That’s a decent measure of influence, don’t you think?
Over the last year there have been THREE huge benefactors to understanding an audience that I feel like I can’t stress enough:
1. Avoiding the operational FAIL WHALE (oh man, do I have withheld rants on this)
2. Understanding that a competitive site in this industry must have diversity in everything (from gaming, to customizations, to approaching an audience)
3. SMART METRICS
For a few short minutes here, and I stress short, I simply must ramble about the importance of metrics and how our industry HAS to step to bat and start finding the value of users NOT just the abuse.
And when I say “our” industry – I mean specifically the CS, Moderation, and Community. We need to TOTALLY BFF-up our Metrics peeps… and if there aren’t metrics peeps at your biz, then you need to step up to bat and figure out enough of a base line understanding regarding metrics and analytics to be able to support what you do.
Why? WE’RE EXPENDABLE. That’s a lie. I know it, you know it, but there are many a board member who don’t understand why CS & Community & (more specifically) Moderation staffing/tools/practices are so important – POST launch, when the belt gets tighter and the big bucks are takin’ a bit longer to roll in.
We’re just people who manage people – anyone can do that… interns can do that, right? PUUUUUUUUUUUKE.
WRONG. UGh. Shudder. Frustration + fist at the sky with some sort of user engagement battle cry! Just because you have a background in marketing – that doesn’t mean you have that GUT understanding, nor ability to read a community. Marketing folks can spin statements and emphasize the value of advertising and approaching product, but it’s not the same […feeling another tangent coming on. Must jump off this tangent path, my apologies].
What was I talking about? Oh yes, Metrics. Analytics. Whatever you wanna call it – basically, this day and age those of us people-people need to have back up. Stories are fun for conferences and for nailing a point home. Leaderboard-esque insight into top players is great to show your front-line knowledge of the audience’s ability. Social media platforms and conversations are great for keeping the product within fingertips of users everyday conscious. But when it comes to number crunching – dude bettah getz some backup. For realzies.
So far, metrics have been great for game designers and registration flows. It’s been great for microtrans and heatmaps (which, may I say – I love me some well developed heatmaps).
Blargh – OKAY, I’m biting off more than I can blog-chew at the moment. I’m going to kinda filter through my metrics conversation from the big point (overall metrics and their importance), and wittle it down to SPECIFICALLY moderation + community necessity.
– Individuals who abuse the system / community / experience
– What is the individual abuse (on a case by case, report, basis)
– Brings questions of WHY individuals abuse: is it the lack of game? Is it the drive of the content?
– Is it a growing group behavior?
– What exactly is the abuse of this growing group behavior?
– Brings again the questions of WHY individuals abuse: is it the lack of game? Is it the drive of the content? Is it the lack of appropriate competitive interaction? CAN YOU FIX THIS?
– Individuals who represent the best of the community
– Individuals who engage from within
– Individuals who lead by example
– *Individuals who seem to be the best of the best, but actually become somewhat cancerous in their righteousness and maybe should be used as a best case
– Groups who lead by example
– Groups who promote desired community efforts
– Areas that promote desired goals for game or specific area
– Individuals or areas that can help promote the MONETARY VALUE OF UPGRADING (via microtrans or subscription)
Remember – you want to gently lure and entice users into becoming monetary assets… and not just monetary assests but SUPER USERS. For as gross as statement from a “purest” perspective as that is… YOU CANNOT RUN A GAME WITHOUT INCOME. Just can’t.
Why would you just use metrics for landscapes and game agendas, or finding bad users? Dude – it’s the day and age of community! Of social media! Own it.
BALANCING THOSE OF ABUSE AND VALUE
Just as this AWESOME article above points out – not all users are just “good” or just “bad”… Use metrics and analytics from:
– Chat (a filter that reads positive chat and associates percentages, a chat filter that reads abusive chat and associates separate percentages)
– Interactions (Community event item clicking and purchasing metrics, guild-grouping, chat submissions, logins, time spent online, friending, time spent in social areas, time spent in gaming areas, time spent multiplayer gaming/interacting, leaderboards, time spent in “home” areas customizing, etc)
– Friending – viral quality outside of game, as well as inside the game.
If you are in the MMO or VW space… I would SERIOUSLY suggest taking a moment to have a solid “think” regarding understanding the bookends of your community, and the elements that drive the bulk middle either direction over the course of their experience. The more you can automate that process for your moderations, customer service reps, and community managers – the stronger / swifter / and better the process will be for you!! You will still need the insights and stories and multisocialmediaextravaganzamadskillz of community pro’s – naturally. But you also need number crunching and proof of pudding products.
So, my dears, in this slightly confusing, probably ADD fueled post – my point is this:
Community and Moderation and CS folks… go rogue for a moment, totally ninja-BFF any metrics/analytics people on staff. Make tools or practices that will help you to find the value, find the abuse, and back it up with the best kind of numbers you can find… AND THEN use your mad community skills to help understand why numbers show what they show, and improve your audience, your product, and the WORLD.
Make sense? Hope so. If not, as always, leave a comment at the beep……
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.
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.
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.”
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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