Posted in kids, Safety/Privacy, web business

COPPA musings

The annual FOSI conference held in DC last week really helped to articulate for me some of the current ambiguity in the COPPA legislation, specifically with it’s intention and it’s enforcement.

Currently, the law is written in such a way that it clearly intends to protect childrens’ personally identifiable information (PII) from being used for nefarious purposes by the websites collecting it or their third party partners.  Some of the changes being proposed (public comments are due by the end of Nov) help to update and articulate this point and make the criteria points a bit more salient with todays tech climate (i.e adding geo-location, behavioral advertising, etc).

One point that is hotly debated is Email Plus.  Currently, sites can use this method (sending notification emails to a parent informing them of a child’s intent to share PII), but the FTC is trying to remove this.  The reason for this being that the sites should, by in large, not be soliciting PII from children in the first place and if they are, they should be complying with the more rigid parental verification models detailed in the law.  As Amy Pritchard from Metaverse Modsquad articulated to me, “Email plus is being eliminated as a way to collect PII and use it internally, as most sites had used it as a best practice parental notification method.  In order to allow sites to continue to do this, the proposed changes allow for sites to collect the parent email address for purposes of notifying the parent that the child has become a member of [or registered for] the site.”

The informal debates that I heard and participated in at the FOSI conference dealt mostly in the intent of the law.  Most of us agreed that the law should protect a child’s PII from being used for anything other than to make the game play better.  For the most part, the consensus is that, except for specific situations, like contests, DOB and gender are really the only 2 pieces of child PII a site needs to collect, and these are allowed currently under COPPA.

The finer point that I recognized in our sometimes spirited debates was between solicited PII and passively collected PII.   A site should not solicit PII from kids, such as in the registration process, as most of this information is not needed for normal game-play (unless, again, they get verifiable parental consent).   But what if kids give PII freely, such as in chat or on forums/boards?  What, if any, sanctions should be levied unto the site in these scenarios?  The informal consensus was that the site should at least employ means of screening and moderating such content so as to make sure that this PII is not easily given and read on the site – but that this should not be legislated as part of COPPA.

Anne Collier wrote about this recently (http://www.netfamilynews.org/?p=30775) – “The proposed [COPPA] changes respond to the advent of social media (social network sites, virtual worlds, online games, apps, etc.) in that sites can “allow children to participate in interactive communities without parental consent so long as the operators take reasonable measures to delete all or virtually all children’s personal information before it is made public,” and companies will also have to hold third parties such as app providers to the same privacy standards their services are held to.”

I do not think that the intention of the law should be about teaching and protecting kids to be safe with their PII.  While this is an ethical and moral imperative that companies that target this demographic should abide by, I fall pretty firmly on the side that this should not be federally mandated.  Many of us, myself included, believe that the free market, and hopefully vocal parent groups and watchdog organizations, should be more of the gauge as to whether this is being done on individual sites.  In theory, educating and protecting kids from sharing PII in chat is a great idea, but those of use who have to DO that work, realize how difficult and sometimes impossible it is to be 100% effective.  I do not see how the government could keep up with or track down how effectively sites are at keeping up with that.

This was the 5th Annual FOSI conference, and it was very good to see more representation from practitioners, rather than just lobbyists, marketers, safety advocates, researchers and bloggers.  Hopefully, those of us with real-world/front-line experience in implementing these sort of laws can gain influence in the conversations so laws can be amended or written practically the first time, rather than after the fact (or not at all).

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Posted in Animal Jam, Club Penguin, Disney, gaming, kids, online community, Safety/Privacy, tween, virtual worlds, Webkinz

Virtual Worlds Mgmt 101

Izzy Neis and I worked on a primer of kids virtual worlds that we could share with people.  Kind of a what’s good about them, what difficult about them, what they are and are not. Enjoy.

And as I was uploading this one, I saw this fantastically designed on on Slideshare as well.  Guess which one of us has access to graphic designers 😛

Posted in gaming, kids, marketing, online community, Safety/Privacy, trends, virtual worlds

Oldy but goody links

So I was clearing out my favorites on Twitter and thought I would aggregate some of the random old articles I had saved to look at later….. way later.  Why not put them here, right? 😉

Learning

Big Thinkers: Henry Jenkins on New Media and Implications for Learning and Teaching

Why playing in the virtual world has an awful lot to teach children

Is Video Game School Training a Generation of Professional Princess Rescuers?

The Changing Views of the Online Experience – from Fears to Possibilities

Raising Future People (aka kids)

Commentary on: Are you raising a Douchebag? Your indulgent parenting is spawning a generation of entitled hipster brats

A Healthy Day Starts in the Classroom with School Breakfast Programs

Online Safety

Twitter Safety: Keeping young people safe on Twitter

Social Media etc

15 Ways to Measure Return on Engagement (ROE) of Social Media

Game Design for Social Networks

Why Community Management is still misunderstood

What is Social CRM? An Introduction

2010: The Year of the Community Manager

35 social media KPIs to help measure engagement

Play!

Playtime can teach us all

Backyard Adaptations Of Video Game Classics

Posted in gaming, kids, marketing, online community, Safety/Privacy, tween, virtual worlds

National Geographic Animal Jam – Open Beta!

Hey everyone!

The reason I haven’t posted in forever is because I am hard at work on our newly launched project (albeit in open beta) National Geographic Animal Jam!

The day is finally here to live wild with National Geographic Animal Jam™. Now you and your kids can be among the first to monkey around in this virtual world of discovery and fun. Combining the chance for kids to be the animal of their choice with access to National Geographic’s limitless libraries, National Geographic Animal Jam will open your child’s eyes to a world of adventure and exploration like no other virtual world out there. Your kids will soon realize that they’re having tons of fun in the coolest jungle around!

Two years in the making, National Geographic Animal Jam represents an ongoing creative collaboration between the great minds at National Geographic and the gaming gurus at Smart Bomb Interactive. The goal of this virtual world is to provide a fun, exciting, and safe environment for kids to play online, as well as inspire them to explore and protect the natural world outside their doors.

So come prowl around inside National Geographic Animal Jam. With lush tropical kingdoms, amazing adventures, and fascinating facts in store—plus the chance to live it up as your favorite animal—mommy and daddy bears (and their cubs alike) will find a wild world worth discovering!

National Geographic Animal Jam – Jump into the Jungle Today!

We are tweaking and polishing through the summer, and as such, it is completely free to play through the open beta! When we have our Grand Opening this fall, we will offer premium subscription content, but the game will always have free to play features.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Posted in kids, online community, Safety/Privacy, trends

LITTLE HANDS, FOUL MOODS, RUNNY NOSES 3: RESEARCH FOR DEVELOPING KID-FRIENDLY SOCIAL GAMING EXPERIENCES

SPEAKER/S: Carla Engelbrecht Fisher (Teachers College, Columbia University)

SLIDES from her blog

5-6 is when kids have more motor skills and can start to understand dispersion

Displacement effect – if they are playing games, they are not homework, hanging with others etc

Tight racer – multi-player game

Preschool

Zone of Proximal Development – if I play with a partner, they will help bring me to their level, scaffolding

Hidden Park – iphone app

Panwapa

Super Mario Bros Wii is collaboratively like LBP

Middle Childhood – 5-8, 8-12

amanda project
clever hive

2 types of friendships
– aggregate – what the masses think
– dyadic – resciprocal

There is research saying that if a kid knows the kids they go to kindergarden withm, they will be more successful

Highlights answers EVERY letter that is sent ot them.

multi-player games have an effect of increasing offline social games

urban v rural comepteitive

Posted in Club Penguin, Disney, gaming, marketing, online community, Safety/Privacy, virtual worlds, Webkinz

KIDS AND PARENTS PLAYING TOGETHER ONLINE: THE NEXT FRONTIER OF CASUAL GAMING

http://www.edge-online.com/features/gdc-bringing-families-together-with-video-games

Jessee Schell
– toy story mania ride
– pixie hollow
– toon town
– pirates

10 things to try to achieve:

1. You have to decide to design for both kids and parents

2. Find themes that both kids and parents care about

– Toon Town’s executives takeover theme – work/play tension
– Last child in the woods – nature – offline tasks
– Nostaligia bridges generation gap – children want to learn about their parent’s childhoods

3. Understand what family wants and provide it

– Families want shared experiences and shared accomplishments
– Parents want to feel that they provided meaningful and useful experiences
– Parents also just want to feel like they provided
– Kids want to be more emotionally connected to their families
– Both kids nad parents want to connect to distant relatives

4. Parents want to teach & kids want to learn

– Adult jokes are teaching/learning opportunities
– Need situations where kids are in over their head where the parents can save them
– Opportunities for kids to brag/show off

5. Co-opt existing roles for quick immersion

– Parent’s understand how to buy a doll, that’s why Webkinz had a big jump off

6. Reverse roles to delight everyone

– Everyone wants a break
– when child’s skills surpasses parent’s – it’s a landmark moment

7. Consider Gender Issues

– There are 12 POV in a 4 person household (Dad, Mom, Sis, Bro)
– Make play patterns to facilitate

8. Deciding to pay is collaborative

– Club Penguin – elastic Velvet rope – effectively teasing enough in a free-to-play situation
– Mailers in Toontown gave the impression of value add

9. Safety is paramount

This is where Mr Schell’s up-to-this-point wonderful talk went off the rails for me.  Instead, he decided to perpetuate the culture of fear mongering that is so popular to do nowadays when discussing children in the online space.  Instead of going off on the rant that this point caused from me, I will just leave this point as the title, and move on. grumble…

10. Design for the family as well as for the individual
– Design to let them connect with one another
– Families are busy now
– Connection btwn parents and kids is a stoong emotional bond.  Leverage it.

Posted in gaming, kids, online community, Safety/Privacy, virtual worlds

Dir of Community Engagement for National Geographic’s Animal Jam

It’s true!  I got a fantastic opportunity to work with an insanely talented team of designers on one of the country’s most beloved brands, National Geographic.  The game is out this summer and it’s BEAUTIFUL.  So excited, stay tuned for updates.  😀

Joi Podgorny Joins National Geographic’s Animal Jam Team

Online Child Safety Veteran to Lead Community Engagement in New Virtual World

Washington, DC and Salt Lake City, UT (PRWEB) January 25, 2010 — Smart Bomb Interactive announced today that Joi Podgorny has joined the company as the Director of Community Engagement for National Geographic’s Animal Jam, an online virtual world for kids 5-9 launching in the summer of 2010. In her new role, Podgorny will architect and oversee all aspects of community management for Animal Jam, with the goal of creating an online destination that is an industry leader in child safety, parental engagement, and pure fun.

“This team and this project are a perfect fit for me,” said Podgorny. “Kids who love animals are going to be immersed in a fascinating virtual world of unprecedented depth, and they’ll be part of an online community that parents can feel good about letting their children explore. “

Podgorny is considered one of the industry’s foremost experts in online community and children’s marketing, specifically in the under-13-year-old demographics. Her management and production accomplishments range across six international children’s entertainment properties. She most recently served as Head of Community for Mind Candy, where she oversaw phenomenal growth in the user community of moshimonsters.com. She is a frequent contributor to conferences and forums on online child safety and digital engagement with children.

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2010/01/prweb3503254.htm