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Posts Tagged ‘Tweens’

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.

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 😉

Future & Pre-Beta Virtual Worlds

November 16, 2007 25 comments

Okay… I’m trying to mock up a list of all these VW’s for tweens/twids that are not live yet, or exists in early Beta. Please add more in the comments, thanks!

  • Bella Sera: Card game + virtual world based on horses/horse play
  • MoshiMonsters: Monster virtual world based on clever gaming and monster care– easily transitions to mobile technology
  • Club Pony Pals: Based on a book series about ponies, this world will be for the pony pet care
  • Dizzywood: A creative, fantasy virtual world to create adventures and inspire
  • Planet Cazmo: A virtual world based on gaming and MUSIC
  • Freaky Creatures: A virtual world for boys regarding monster/creatures
  • Build-a-Bear: Based on the popular brand, build your bear and play with it online in a virtual world. It’s LIVE now.
  • FusionFall: Cartoon Network’s MMORG, based on Cartoon Network brands & exploring the worlds within the network (i’m looking forward to this!)
  • Little Big Planet: Okay, okay– I know this will be a video game… but it’s community/world appeal are just too awesome to NOT mention.
  • Lego Universe: It’s lego. It’s community. It’s gonna be amazing.
  • Panwapa (it’s live, and been online longer than some previously mentioned): A preschool VW brought to the world by Sesame Street folks. It’s multicultural, it’s unique, it’s going to be the next big VW phase in like 1 year (preschool/kid VW’s)
  • Adventure Rock: The CBBC/BBC’s robot-y virtual world
  • Zibbies: A product based VW (dolls that kinda look like a mix of webkinz & Beanie Babies but with rubbery spikes for hair on their heads). Currently live in early beta.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean Online: Went live a little over a week ago– this pirate existence is a downloadable app (like WOW) and currently in Beta. I love it.
  • Littlest Pet Shop: Also, currently in Beta– this is kinda an exclusive experience, as they products (with the much needed code to play) are hard to get hands on. But you can demo free. No community yet.
  • Wowbotz: An outerspace-feeling VW in beta-live for “preschoolers” I more or less categorize it for kids/twids.
  • Mystikatz Kutties: A Virtual World for girls who like dolls dressed like colorful gypsies. Like it’s brother site “Wowbotz”, this is categorized as for “preschoolers” but I’d stick it in the kids/twids boxes.
  • Magi-Nation: Based on a TV show and a trading card game, this virtual world will cater to the fantasy tweens/kids who might also enjoy shows like Yo-Gi-Oh and Pokemon and Chaotic.
  • Disney’s Cars: A virtual world built on the Disney movie “Cars”.
  • Mini Match: From Cartoon Network comes a MMO for casual gamers, and world roamers. It’s in UBER early beta… UBER. But so far– you can set up your avatar (promising animation, ugly avatar face/hair but that can change?, the clothing layering options = very smart indeed), but from my experience you can’t play yet. Cartoon Network seems to be treading lightly in this space– and with a good brain on their shoulders
  • Pixie Hallow: Not yet in LIVE beta… but will be amazing! Loads of great rumors about this one… It’s Disney’s Fairies VW.
  • T-Works (????): Looney Toon Virtual World that may or may not be launching this fall with several other Warner platforms….?
  • Konstruction Zone: A new (pre-beta) VW based on cute construction characters– encourages online playtime between parents and kids.
  • Papermint: another virtual world for kids– 2D art, pre-Beta (from the looks of it).
  • Hello Kitty World: Not live yet, their pre-beta site offers a decent sneak peek of elements that will be a part of the world. I’m interested to find out what “in game telepathy” is– as they say in their introductory page. It’s all the bright happy bumblegum colors you come to expect from HK. I’m pumped to see what HK brings to the table.
    • I’m not sure what the safety is on this yet– Sanrio Town is NOT for U13… and the HK world will tie in somehow with the pre-existing Sanrio Town community platform. So, stay tuned…. 😦
  • Dragon Play: It’s a medieval world for dragon play (like the name, clever, lol).
  • Chaotic: A virtual worldish(?) experience attached to collectible card-play
  • Ice Age: An MMO based upon the two movies (and third to come) slated for 2009
  • Minyanland: A virtual environment where kids can learn about money, banking, and managing responsibilities while gaining a virtual life. Has parent/chore metagame, etc. Based on the finance site Minyanville.com
  • Planet V-Tech: described as an educational virtual world for 5+
  • Earth Eternal: An MMO with educational elements that can be accessed through social networking
  • Speed Racer: A virtual world (with toy tie-ins) for the upcoming movie franchise
  • Web wilds: A virtual environment to correlate with the puppet-dolls.
  • Hot Wheels: A virtual world to correlate with the toy-cars.
  • Madagascar: A virtual world to correspond with their upcoming sequel movie.
  • Seapals: A product tie-in with VW, like it’s sister product Shining Stars. (It’s gotten more PR than Shining Stars, which has been live for quite some time now– it could be interesting!)
  • MyLife: An avatar/world combination toy for girls to build and share profiles (Playmates toys)
  • Beanie Babies 2.0: A virtual world – pet product combo. Codes. Unlock. Dolls. Yadda.
  • Guppylife: An MMO for girls not yet released, and very little info.
  • Lola’s World: It’s a companion community with vw-elements for tween girls based on the Lola, Think Pink, books. It launches in April 08.
  • Tronji: An MMO game based around the Tronji world is currently in development to be released alongside the TV show.
  • Tech Deck Live: A Virtual world skate part for tweens who like skateboarding. Subscription based. Tech Deck is a toy product (finger skateboards).
  • Dinokids: An MMO (looks just like Maplestory but with dinos) for tween/kids.
  • Treetures: A VW with stuffy product tie in (Russ)
  • Green: A future virtual world promoting green initiatives. Not live yet, very hush – hush. Now live.
  • Kaimira MMO: BBC announced their desire to create a MMO around the Kaimira Trilogy, a book series from Star Farm Productions.
  • KidsWB: Warner Bros platform site meshed with Virtual worlds??? Details still coming through the pipeline.
  • DC HeroZone: Another virtual world from WB that follows comics & heroes
  • WarnerZone: Another Warner Bros stealth-hush hush VW coming summer ’08.
  • Zoopri: A virtual world for tweens, not live yet.
  • Dinosaur Junction: Another virtual world for kids based on dinos with some educational values.
  • JumpStart Advanced Preschool World: a VW for the 3-5 set. Software first, world later.
  • Wizard 101: An MMO/VW for the tween, teen set based on wizardry and magic and fantasy.
  • Elf Island: A tween VW based on being an upstanding member and “doing good,” not launched yet.
  • Topps Town: A VW for 6+ boys (only, seriously, no girl av) based on trading card gameplay.
  • Muppet MMO: A little birdy whispered this one to me that the Muppet MMO is in strategy/planning phase… so take it was a wink & a nod and a grain of salt.
  • AllGirlArcade: Currently a multiplatform community site, future to be a virtual world
  • AllBoyArcade: By the makers of the girl arcade, this won’t be rolling until next year.
  • Kiwi Heroes: A VW in pre-Beta for tweens regarding conservationism.
  • Tootsville: A toy based VW with subscription too based on elephant/pet play.
  • Unnamed MMO: From the folks who created Neopets. Think Labyrinth & Dark Crystal.
  • Revngenz: A car MMO for gender neutral (really for boys) with licenses for gift cards.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: MMO based on the Nickelodeon television show.
  • Huri Humi: Avatar virtual world for tweens based on product to VW purchases.
  • Happy Meal 3.0: McDonald’s version of a virtual world for kids.
  • Action AllStars: A simply MARVELOUS virtual world for sports & tweens, currently in private beta.
  • Saddle Club: VW in development for the book series/tv series (tweens, kids, teens)
  • Twin Skies: An MMO for all ages from the creators of Neopets.
  • Emerald Island: An MMO for tweens based on environmental issues.
  • Garden Party: A virtual world for young tweens about growing plants & playing
  • Ekoloko: A virtual world for tweens based on the “green” initiative.
  • SpineWorld: A virtual world by Playdo based on epic adventure & fantasy

BAH! I know I’m forgetting a ton– curse you, brain cloud (reference: “Joe Versus the Volcano”). Any help here? I’ll keep adding as they come.

Also for those VW researchers/explorers, here are a few oldie but goody links: