Undercover Mom in BarbieGirls.com, Part 1: Romance in the air
By Sharon Duke Estroff
As with every children’s virtual world I’ve visited undercover, I found BarbieGirls.com to have both its crown jewels and its skeletons in the closet.
Crown jewel: Socially acceptable doll play for tweens When
I was growing up, girls played with Barbies well past their 12th
birthdays. Today, in contrast, publicly admitting to owning a Barbie
Dream House at the age of 12 would equate to middle school social
suicide. Not so, however, for her virtual counterpart. BarbieGirls.com
is one of the most popular websites in the burgeoning children’s
virtual world market. K-Zero virtual world consultancy places it at 15
million unique accounts and skip counting. The vast majority of those
accounts belonging to tween girls. This is welcome news considering the
widespread concern among child development experts that the KGOY
phenomenon (Kids Getting Older Younger) may be cheating millennial kids
out of their one and only go round at childhood. BarbieGirls.com has
allowed a generation of cool-conscious tweens to stay on the pink
bandwagon for just a little longer.
Skeleton in the closet: Questionable conversation But
just because the BarbieGirl.com’s is the classic high-ponytailed pink
silhouette doesn’t mean that the play is the same as in yesteryear. The
chat and virtual interaction factors have added a completely different
dimension to this Barbie world. Because pictures speak a thousand words
– and I am frankly speechless after some of the conversations I witnessed – I am going to use screenshots to out this skeleton.
Surprising Barbie Girl Scene #1:
I took this screenshot in the Extreme Dreamland palace, where ambience
is kitschy Arabian Nights with matching background music. I’d just
plopped myself down by the crystal ball when the avatar sitting next to
me announced “I am a guys” (the filter disallows “guy” in the
singular). Hmm, she/he sure doesn’t look like a guy….
Surprising Barbie Girl Scene #2:
Once we’d established that he was of the male species and I of the
female, our conversation progressed to the next level. Here is my new
guy friend asking me if I’d like to make out. Note that his proposal is
presented in separate bubbles to bypass filters that block certain
strands of words.
SHARON DUKE ESTROFF
Sharon Duke Estroff is an award-winning educator and author of "Can I Have a Cell Phone for Hanukkah? (Random House, 2007). Her parenting articles appear in over 100 publications including Scholastic Parent and Child, Parents, Good Housekeeping, and Woman's Day. She is a parenting blogger for Huffington Post. Sharon is the creator of CHALLENGE ISLAND enrichment classes, camps, and birthday parties which provide imagination-fueled learning adventures to children while fostering their critical and creative thinking skills.