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Posts Tagged ‘online safety’

Blogging Blogging Blogged 2013: Here I am!

June 17, 2013 Leave a comment

Dear Johnny/Molly/Henry/Willamena Fredericka II/Bubba Adelbert,

My apologies for the multiple names.  You see, you’re still too far away to even be a twinkle in my eye, and in my Disney-youth I princess-dreamed all the names I’d have for my future kids, so I thought I’d start with those (p.s. the II to Willamena is because I already have a Willa-dog. I love her desperately, so don’t take the “second” title as an insult. On second thought, I’ll budget for therapy, just in case).

Anyway, I digress.  Dear future muppet-of-mine,

I’m writing you now, well in advance, about a few things that worry me about the current state of our youth online.  Seems like an odd topic, right?  Yes, well, I figure that about the time you’re old enough to start using digital tools (funny thought: zygote = z-iGote), I may have Wendy’ed myself right out of the nursery (Peter Panreference), and (dare I say it) lost my knowledge of the younger generation (this may seem an impossible concept for most of the people around me, particularly your grandparents, who still don’t quite understand how I found a career that encourages my interests in cartoons and toys).

Read More:
http://metaversemodsquad.com/an-open-letter-to-my-future-child-who-doesnt-exist/

LOOKIE LOOKIE, WHO’S BLOGGIN’, COOKIE.

Ok, so more developments. In December of 2012, I finally took the much anticipated leap of joining my friends Amy Pritchard and Regine Weiner (amongst others, Mike, Rich, etc) at Metaverse Mod Squad.  For years, I had been a client and a friend to MMS… it only seemed natural to join in on the fun ;).

So, I’m now the Director of Digital Strategy & Engagement.  I really like titles that are a mouthful.  The longer the title, the more giddy I am.  The best part of this gig?  Instead of wrapping myself around ONE project, I now get to wrap myself around any number of projects!  I get to help many people – yay!  [sales pitch accomplished in a very covert way, now add the contact digits: izzy at metaverse mod squad dot com].

As for my beloved blog, which is growing to be quite the latch key pre-tween [epic fail, izzy]. I am happy to say that I’ve been part-time blogging for Metaverse Mod Squad’s blog (as seen in the quote above).  For a period of time, I stopped blogging here due to commitments elsewhere, followed by lack of content (or doubling up of rants).  We all know, I always have a rant shoved up my sleeve, but they’ve been in short bursts, and much more acceptable within the Twitterverse.

Overall, in regards to kid entertainment – I’ve not been impressed.  Movies have been “ok,” cartoons have been “ok” (exception: Adventure Time is amazing), live action shows have taken a turn downward, and the toys “over baked” or “over sexed” (what’s new there? le sigh).  Digitallly speaking – there’s definitely been a few highlights here and there.  Some interesting stuff on the horizon, but it’s a tough time for kid-based digital properties.  Even when awesome kid-based interactive experiences pop up, there seems to be low cash flow, or complete ignorance and misunderstanding on the high-exec level of what it means to have a kid/family based property (and how the monetary growth happens).

Sometimes I get weary of “pouring one out” for your fallen homies (RIP, my virtual world friends).  My bitter sweet sadness is temporary, I still have the faith!  I think we’re going to see an uptick in kid experiences in the next 2 years… I’m just waiting to get excited about something juicy & innovative & fun.

I will say – Youtube has DEFINITELY changed the game for digital entertainment & IP creation.  For the last year I’ve become obsessed with watching trends rise out of Youtube… and even when they’re “for teens” or “for adults” -> the early adopters tend to be the 9 – 12 year olds who find and share this content first.

Note: Kids in social apps are booming (and I’m not talking the apps created for kids).  The new social world for pre-tweens, tweens, and teens? Comments left in UGC (Vine, Instagram, Youtube comments, even comments on app rating pages in iTunes) – and don’t get me started on the smart phone tween empire… lawdy!

I have a bunch of rock star clients now, and I’m having fun playing in new playgrounds (general audience social media, large scale game companies, smart phone app strategy… you name it, we’re rockin’ it!).

Anyway – check out my blog post above for Metaverse Mod Squad!  You may see a bit more insight on where my brain is at these days (in regards to kids online).  🙂

xoxoxoxox I shall be back.

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It’s Arrived! FTC’s Proposals for COPPA amendments

September 15, 2011 1 comment

FTC Seeks Comment on Proposed Revisions to Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule Changes in Technology Drive Proposed Updates

The Federal Trade Commission is seeking public comment on proposed amendments to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule, which gives parents control over what personal information websites may collect from children under 13. The FTC proposes these amendments to ensure that the Rule continues to protect children’s privacy, as mandated by Congress, as online technologies evolve. The Commission proposes modifications to the Rule in five areas: definitions, including the definitions of “personal information” and “collection,” parental notice, parental consent mechanisms, confidentiality and security of children’s personal information, and the role of self-regulatory “safe harbor” programs.

FTC Seeks Comment on Proposed Revisions to Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule Changes in Technology Drive Proposed Updates

Wow… so, after a year of research and reflection from the COPPA round table in DC, the FTC has come forward with some proposals / amendments to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.  This should be VERY interesting, considering the upcoming push for kids to participate in Social Media platforms (*cough* Hearsay… Facebook *cough).  Take a look at the link above for full run down from the FTC website. Otherwise, here’s a quick bullet list.

Proposed changes include, my notes in RED:

  •  Updating the definition of “personal information” to include geolocation and persistent identifiers such as tracking cookies for behavioral advertising. (Wow. I actually think this is GREAT for all those platforms now collecting location.  Seems like a no brainer in regards to children.  As for Behavioral Advertising?  Man oh man, this should be an interesting shake-down.)
  • Modifying the definition of “collection” to allow children to participate in interactive communities without parental consent. (Sites must employ reasonable measures to delete all or virtually all children’s personal information before it is made public) (I’m not sure how different this is from what is already practiced?  I will need to do a deeper dive to understand what this is in exact reference to, or what this actually affects – if anything at all).
  • Streamlining/clarifying information that websites give parents prior to collecting children’s personal information (adding more information in the notifications, and not hiding in only in the Privacy Policy) (This is great in “theory” – but let’s be honest… it’s hard enough to get parents to see the BIG GREEN CLICK HERE / URL at the TOP of a welcome email, regardless of the information buried within the email.  I feel this is a “good policy” amendment more than something that will prove helpful, which is sad.)
  • New Parental Verification / consent opportunities (Yay! we need new methods!):
  1. Electronic scans of signed parental consent forms (The modern “fax”, lol.  No brainer here.)
  2. Video-conferencing (Bwaha! Dear gawd almighty – this is BONKERS for scaling… Great for quick-fire Customer Service & Skype, nuts for staffing and sustaining large groups)
  3. Government-issued IDs checked against a database (note: promptly deleted after verification) (Interesting! Lots of “Big Brother”-esque thoughts stream through my head, and I don’t necessarily think its a bad thing in regards to children… But that’s because those actions help me do my job in protecting my audience).
  • PROPOSED DELETION OF EMAIL-PLUS (This is a HUGE FTC proposal. It could affect a LOT of businesses and platforms for kids. Seriously.  Not to mention, marketing emails & virtual worlds… People who have been using email plus + great policy are about to lose a LOT of numbers in registrations!  Oooo doggy!)
  • New 180-day proposal for companies seeking “new” types of verification processes to be vetted and approved (or rejected) by the FTC
  • Safe Harbor programs must do annual audits. (Um. Yeah. I feel like there should be biannual audits done, but in a cooperative, friendly manner.)
Overall – interesting day of information.  Commenting has started on these proposed amendments… so get on it if you feel the need to speak out.  The only yellow flag for me = deletion of Email Plus.  It has been the EASIEST method to engage kids… and the lowest barrier to entry for parents (*no comment on the easy work arounds).  I worry that this will just send kids tenfold into adult areas or into opportunities of lying to get what they want.  Overall, maybe it will be a great thing?  I think I’m just foreseeing the crunch various companies are going to have between removing the “email plus” approval system and entering the “full verification” method.  I know a lot of companies have used email plus in a positive method – with extensive filters, moderation systems/practices, and staffing.
So… what do you think?

What to Look For in Safe Online Destinations for Kids

January 4, 2008 8 comments

Registration Processes:

  • Personal information
    • What do they collect? Do they collect your child’s real name? Your child’s email address? Address? Any type of information that can identify your child?? If they collect this information they should ALSO ask for your child’s DOB (Date of Birth) or Age.
    • And if your child is under the age of 13, the site should ask for your (THE PARENT’S) email address and EMAIL you promptly regarding your child’s online registration process (either a “head’s up, your kids on our site, and here’s some info about why we’re safe” or “Your child signed up and here is your child’s login information, have questions? ask” emails).
    • If they DO NOT collect any private/identifiable information (they only collect: username, M/F, DOB, and/or zip code) that’s fine. They do not need to email you– but personally– if they’re under 13 years of age, it’s my preference to see the site always email the parent. But again, in this case, not necessary for the information attained (yet…)

User Generated Content:

  • User Generated Content (UGC) is ANYTHING your child creates of their own free will (and then shares online). Whether it be a screen name, a blog/forum comment, a blog/forum post, chat comments, a drawing, a story, and uploaded photo, etc.
  • It is my professional opinion that all UGC from U13 users should go through filters & screening processes. Always. But that’s not necessarily always the case.
  • This goes ESPECIALLY for usernames. Registration processes always ask for username identification. The uber-safe sites provide a mix&match screen name builder. Others screen moderate.
    • Eyeballing the usernames: are they screened? How to tell:
      • Freshly created usernames that haven’t been approved yet have four processes:
        • 1) the user is dubbed “Guest” (or similar) until the screen name is viewed by staff (sometimes the user can see his/her own name, but others cannot– they see “guest”);
        • 2) the username has gone through a filter and deemed appropriate by passing through without hitting a blacklisted word/phase (this is NOT my ideal method of screening names);
        • 3) the user cannot play (only set up profile, etc) until approved by staff;
        • 4) the site is stupid and has no corporate responsibility (aka, they don’t care about personal safety or inappropriate content appearing live on their premises)
      • In my HUMBLE professional opinion… filters DO NOT ACCURATELY SCREEN USERNAMES… EVER. Why? Because kids… they are clever. Like the Raptors in Jurassic Park. They’ll find a way. If you have filters first & human screening before a user name goes live? That’s a lot better. Spelling, phonetics, numbers, etc make it very easy to make things look/sound like inappropriate content (remember “80081355” on a calculator? If not, go ahead– stick that in your ancient calc… we used to come up with words like that in 3rd grade)
  • If you– the parent– agree to a child’s participation online, you agree to all that the site has to offer. Technically, once a site gets your sign off, the kid can do anything– because you gave your permission. SO, if the site hasn’t done its darnedest to make you feel safe and assured by their obvious practices… you might want to take a closer look at the site’s offerings, privacy policy, and TOS (terms of service).
    • Further clarification: if you agree to your child’s registration process, you MAY be agreeing to your kid participating in unscreened, unmonitored viewing & uploading of personal photos, sharing information, speaking freely, etc.
    • Most sites for kids make sure that they cover your basis and protect the kid… but some are lazy and do not. So it’s good to double check.
    • If the site DID NOT take any of your child’s personal information, and then they ask for UGC, three things happen
      • 1. The UGC is screened (a moderator/screener– adult– looks at the content and scans it for inappropriate behavior, personal information, etc)
      • 2. The site NOTIFIES you of the child’s wish to display UGC on the site, and either gives you a link TO the child’s material (if already screened and deemed appropriate by staff) or keeps the UGC in a queue until you approve it yourself.
      • 3. They suck: aka they post the information without screening and/or notification (which is shady)… and basically just expect the fact that the child is “nameless” in the registration process to be enough for protection & to appease COPPA legislation (which it isn’t… kids sometimes slip email addresses, phone numbers, pictures of them & their best friends, etc into UGC to make or sustain friends). This again goes back to my humble professional opinion that UGC should ALWAYS be screened by moderators & adults.

Staff and Q&A

  • Something I like to check is:
    • how readily available is the staff? (24 hour?)
    • Are they roaming the site visibly? Or are they the “flag&come” sort that appear when a whistle is blown?
    • Does content go live, or is it screened first?
    • Where do I contact the site’s staff? And how easy is it to find that info?
    • How do I report inappropriate content? And is it visible for kids to use quickly, simply, easily, etc

    Look: you don’t have to bombard the staff with these questions (especially, since then you’re taking the time away from their jobs). Just cruise around and see for yourself. If they don’t bother to share this info with you in a parents-corner or in FAQ, etc… then maybe think again about how you feel regarding the site & your child. Chances are, they’re safe & sound… but really, it’s something to think about. It’s ALWAYS your choice. If you don’t like it, find someplace better. The market grows by day.

Ads & Content

  • If you are paying for your child to play in a site… Banner Ads, well… they tend to be very uncool.
  • If there are going to be ads, I’m a bigger fan of static ads than clickable ads (static = just a picture, clickable = go to another website)
  • Clickable ads (like banner ads) should ALWAYS warn kids, letting them know they are being jetted AWAY from the site.
    If banner ads, or clickable ads, do NOT give you a “Heads up, You’re leaving” page (usually the time count is 20 seconds before automatically sending the user along)… that is wrong. Not everyone agrees with me… but as a parent, you might.
  • Sometimes free sites for kids have less-than-desirable ads flashing by. Why? Because ad revenue systems sometimes slip a non-child-friendly link through. Personally– if a site is going to have ads, I would rather THEY be the middleman, picking and choosing ads for the site instead of someone like Google Ad Sense, yadda, doing it.
  • Off-Site Links: like ads, if it leads you FROM the site for kids, it should have a “heads up you’re leaving us” page attached. Kids click, click, click. Like buttons in an elevator, they tend to press them all. Better to warn then assume the kid knows what he/she pressed.
  • Links: It is IN MY opinion that if a site SHOULD place exterior links on their site, they should know exactly what kind of content is available on ALL PAGES within 2 or 3 site link/page clicks. What does this mean? Well… if I link my site to your site… i better know exactly what content is on every page of your site. And if you link to your brother, well it’s my business to know exactly what is available on his site too. And if either site besides mine has inappropriate content or links or ads… well, perhaps it’s time to stop that webring, yes? Yes.
  • Look for Forums:
    • Forums are a FANTASTIC way for kids to continue conversations & state opinions & explore typing skillz, etc… but, if not properly addressed, they become worse than an unmonitored school yard.
    • Do forum moderators participate?
    • Is the content live or screened to live?
    • What kind of commentary is being passed & chatted about?
  • And sadly… I know it’s wrong to say (and some people might call me out on it)… But i truly do subscribe to the DO JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER. If a site looks less-than-stellar in aesthetics, doesn’t look well established or taken care of, seems to make the important information hard to find… then chances are, it isn’t a great site. The people who really do care about the kids & the community & the site will work their fingers to the bone– rolling with the times, improving, and providing.
  • As for safety– always check it out for yourself:
    • Registration process
    • Privacy Policy
    • Rules & TOS
    • Content: UGC, Ads, and Moderation (Staff)

That’s my tidbit of the day.  If you have MORE info you’d like to share… please don’t hesitate in the comments.  Thanks 😉