Those of us who understand the positive aspects of online play need to help shape the climate online in the next couple years. Gone are the days of bragging about how your child knows so much more about technology/computers/internet than you do. More and more of our lives are being spent online. Let’s treat that sea change with a bit more respect than simple awe/wonder.
If we don’t want EVERY brand space online to be blatant consumerism with no message or goal, we have to be proactive about preventing that from happening. We must work toward not just calling out the bad sites, but creating and commending the good sites. And not just ones that give lip-service to more holistic goals – ones that actually step up and do it.
I ducked out of the Kids and Teens talk at the Virtual Worlds conference last week in order to see a young girl doll brand case study. Oy vey, was that a hard one to sit through. The developer giving the talk continually talked sarcastically about the girly brand that he developed, which showed me that he didn’t respect the audience and community the site was trying to develop. How can you create a great community if you don’t care about them?
Through his talk, he talked a couple times about the core values of “Empowerment” etc that the site’s founders wanted to convey in the virtual world. But almost in the same breath, he would reiterate multiple times that the only purpose for the site was to “sell more dolls.” Makes you wonder if the brand managers of those dolls know and care how their brand is being conveyed to conference audiences and their online community.
If “to sell more dolls” is truly the reason that the parent company wanted to launch this world, fine. They certainly are not alone. But that doesn’t mean all the other sites that will be developed in this category have to be like that.
Sesame Street’s Panwapa world is a cool approach to get into a space that is bound to be crowded in the next 2 years – preschool to early readers, 4-7 year olds. Kudos to them for being there before anyone else with a solid idea for a world (and not just the mindless wandering and silly games that make up almost every world in this space).
Whether we like it or not, a child is assimilated into the tech space earlier and earlier as the years go by. To pretend that this isn’t happening or block the kids from sites on a micro level is not the way to improve the situation. It’s the ostrich effect and doesn’t improve anything for anyone, especially the kids.
People who grew up with technology are now having kids. These younger generation parents have less or no aversion to introducing their kids to the online/tech coolness that they have grown up with. As producers of content (be it for a marketing purpose or pure creative), we have to develop for the parents AND the kids. These younger parents will still want the educational aspects that the past decade of attentive parents wanted, but the younger parents understand all of this on another level. Many of them understand that you can have fun, build relationships, and develop as a human online. They also understand the importance of design, navigation and user interface in your online experience. AND they will, directly or indirectly, teach these concepts to their kids.
Hopefully the content will start to catch up with paradigm shift that is happening world-wide as I type. Is your content up to the task?
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