Ahh Facebook. It has changed my life. Now instead of inventing the next great children’s television series I can read all about what some of my friends had for lunch and just how great it is that it is Friday. Okay, okay I’m being cynical (I get to be cynical a couple times a year) but it is true that half of all Americans connect with friends via social networking yet under 13s are not technically allowed on Facebook (though they are pretty good at finding ways to be on Facebook anyway). May’s Talking Tech event had to do with this very subject (and you thought I was just rambling): Social Networking for Tweens. Joining us were Christina Poturica-O’Neill, JD: Senior Legal Associate, Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) and Alan Goodman: Editorial and brand consultant, Everloop.com.
Christina gave us an overview on what CARU does. Basically, they review child targeted ads in all media and evaluate them. When ads are found to be misleading or inconsistent with established CARU guidelines they nicely ask the advertisers to cooperate with them and change their ads. This self-policing approach helps keep the FCC at bay. They are the first FTC approved safe harbor under COPPA (the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act). Whew, there were a lot of initials being thrown around there. Online they work with advertisers to make sure that kids can’t click on inappropriate material or accidentally buy something online, etc.
“Great Melinda, great, but what does this have to do with Facespace?” you say. Well, that brings me to Alan’s part. Alan spoke about his new project everloop.com, a Facebook-type site specifically for kids 13 and under. Kids can only sign up with a parent’s consent and they get an account that doesn’t use their real names or any personal info that could identify them. And here’s the part that made me go “Wha?” – There are live personnel monitoring all activity on everloop in real time making sure there’s no cyberbullying going on and that no predators are trying to glean personal info from the kids online. The site is providing a social network for kids and teaching them to be good cybercitizens as it gives each kid a credit score of sorts that goes up or down depending on how they conduct themselves online.
So, I’m 9 years old, what’s in it for me? Well, besides being able to chat with kids and your friends (provided you know their usernames) the site boasts the most awesome thing I wish I could use as an adult. The Goob. Even the name is awesome. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what happens when you employ one of the geniuses who was responsible for making Nickelodeon a household word in the ’80s, thanks Alan! Goobs are cyber pranks you can send to you friends that sabotage their screens (safely of course). You can bombard a screen with toilet paper or start an onscreen food fight. Neat. The site also partners with companies to provide content exclusive to everloop like free online books from Harper Collins.
Oh and why is it called everloop, you ask? Because instead of having a network of friends you have loops. Kids can join loops about sports or music or they can create their own loops. Everloop keeps them in the loop, get it? Alan, if you’re reading this, is there any way I could get a Goob on my phone? Just for me? Pretty please. Ahh, to be young again.
Main Takeaway: Kids are becoming more technically savvy but that doesn’t mean they have any more common sense than we did when we were that age. A certain degree of policing is a good thing so the kids don’t get involved with folks who may be out to hurt them. Also, they won’t be able to just order things online and stiff you with the bill the way we got our parents with all those calls to 1-900-NEW-KIDS. Don’t look at me like you don’t know what I’m talking about. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxH67j0ZUx4
Personal Takeaway: I have got to get me a goob. It’s really all I can think about.
Inappropriate Takeaway: I’m gonna be honest and say that while I buy that a real kid is gonna have a hard time joining everloop without parental permission, I think it could be fairly easy for an adult to log on and pretend to be a kid. But I guess that’s where that live chat monitoring kicks in. Can you imagine the person who has to read all that? I imagine it looks a little like this:
TeamEdward: LOL! OMG! TMI! 182. JK.
TeamJacob: SH^ LTLWDLS.
TeamEdward: LQTM. LYLAS. ABTA.
Live Monitor: WTH?