My children don’t spend much time online… mostly because whenever they get close to my desk I throw myself prostrate across the monitor and keyboard and scream “Mine! Mine! ALL MINE!” Of course, I kid. It’s so much easier just to sit on the desk, bare my teeth and snarl.
No, the reality is that I have not let allowed my children to use any online program which allows them to interact with other people. Sure, we do the standard elementary-school haunts, PBSKids.org and Big Fat Awesome House Party (which still makes me giggle uncontrollably), but anything where they’re interacting with other kids? Nope. Not yet. They might be ready, but I’m not.
And yet… my friends with kids just a bit older than mine are all talking about Club Penguin, and after the fourth or fifth person mentioned it to me, I decided to check it out for myself. That’s when I came across Peter McKay’s piece which was as hilarious as it was informative. You should read the entire thing, really, because it’s chock-full of gems like this:
It’s a cartoon island where kids take on penguin identities to interact with each other. They never really say much — they just mill about, awkwardly bumping into each other until, every once in a while, someone dances. It’s kind of like a middle school social.
The idea behind Club Penguin is simple: Online gaming and instant messaging are the two activities kids most want to engage in online. Why not create a fun environment that is as entertaining as it is safe?
BusinessWeek has dubbed Club Penguin “MySpace for the Sandlot Set”, and Children’s Technology Review Magazine named it an Editor’s Choice.
This may just be the perfect solution for younger kids and their nervous parents. From the Club Penguin Q & A:
In order to ensure the safest possible environment, we created two chat options.
Ultimate Safe Chat is the perfect solution for parents seeking the ultimate in online safety. This important option limits what users can say to a predefined list of greetings, questions, and statements in the menu located on the left of the bottom tool bar, as well as emotes, actions and greeting cards. These users can only see other Ultimate Safe Chat messages, as well as emotes, actions, and greeting cards.
Standard Safe Chat allows players to type their own messages to other users. Every message that is typed first goes through a sophisticated word filter, which blocks inappropriate words and phrases, and also deciphers codes players might use in an attempt to get past the filter and bully others. For further security of Standard Safe Chat participants, moderators monitor what’s going on and receive player reports of misconduct. An “M” icon on the upper, right-hand portion of the screen reminds participants that a moderator is available to help. Players who engage in inappropriate behavior can be silenced or banned.
Hmmmm… I like it. (In fact, there are a few people in real life I’d like to silence and/or ban. Can we get someone on that, please?) I’m still not sure I’m ready to share my computer, but I think I’d be comfortable letting my kids try this out.