Social Networking Kid Style

My sons are off at college, so I'm out of touch with the preschool and primary grades these days. My sons cut their tech teeth on my Apple IIe, Mac SE & Windows 3.1 and went online with my 1200 baud modem and 40 hours a month of AOL.

So I'm reading about kids and the Net and I find that they have social networking sites for the very young. And I felt quilty about not teaching my course in Second Life this semester. Man, I am out of touch with technology. The article led me to two sites in particular.

You really should take a look at Nicktropolis from the cable TV Nickelodeon folks (watched a lot of that channel with the boys) and Disney Extreme Digital.

Nicktropolis is a new 3-D virtual world full of games, videos, chat and customized rooms and the new Disney Extreme Digital (DXD) extends their very sophisticated web site with chat and channels devoted to their movies, TV, music and games.

Obviously, they need to be super squeaky clean when it comes to privacy & security. At Nicktropolis you choose a NickName (of course) without persoanl information attached and the default is for the liitle guys to "chat" using povided phrases from pull-down menus (parents can activate realtime chat though). Your NickSelf avatar can journey through the virtual community. Interaction? You can vote on new features and if you feel uncomfortable with someone or something, click on "Report a Concern."

DXD (beta when I tried it out) has similar chats - "speed chat" (hmmm... you can choose to say "Check out the Pirates of the Caribbean channel") and a parent-enabled one called "True Friends" chat. ("Sorry, honey, but Melissa can't be your true friend. Why don't you tell her to buy a nice DVD instaed.")

OK, Ken - easy on the sarcasm. It's for kids. And, it's free. Yes, it is. But for kids to do or learn what? Computer skills? Netiquette? Keyboarding? Product placement?

I'm sure that zipping through Bikini Bottom (with SpongeBob SquarePants), trying out new games and watching videos is entertaining, but it feels empty.

I guess the upcoming massively multiplayer Pirates of the Caribbean role-playing game (free with ads or $9.95 a month for premium) is preparing you for Second Life (and selecting your cable package) when you're an adult.

Make sure you have a fast connection, ("Finish your homework & Daddy
will get you Optimum Online Boost.") because this is video streaming land.

If I know your NickName I can visit your private room - or you can block my access. (Watch for a "Let's Go Phishing" game soon... no, I made that up.)

If Nicktropolis is very much The Sims, and college students are writing papers about virtual learning environments, maybe this IS educational.

Universities take note: Want a course on branding? Get a couple of accounts in these.


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