Day 1 in Club Penguin: Let's Get this Party Started
I have to admit Iím pretty darn cute. My avatar, ChillyLily437, that is. Iím plump, perky, and very pink. Only one more hurdle to jump before I can make my cybersocial debut on Club Penguin: an emailed permission slip from my parents.
Rather than submitting my real email address (this is a stealth operation after all!), I open up an alias email and have the CP powers-that-be send the consent form there. Within milliseconds my new inbox is flashing with a message informing me of "my child's" Club Penguin registration, Iíve clicked the requisite activation link, and my undercover snowball is officially rolling.
Mom Break: Okay, I promised myself I wasnít going to put my mom hat back on until at least Day 3. I mean, whatís the good of going undercover if you keep taking off your disguise? But PLEASE! Does Club Penguin really think that this parent email permission click deal is a viable safety measure? I created an alias email account in, what, two seconds? Our digital native offspring could easily do the same. Iím not saying that my child or your child would use a fake parent email to gain access to Club Penguin or a similar social network site. Or that one of their friends would use a fake parent email to grant Club Penguin access to every kid at school. Iím just sayingÖ.
So you may be thinking, "Whatís the big deal? Club Penguin is not MySpace or Facebook, itís a kid-oriented website for heavenís sake." But thatís precisely my point. The target market for social network sites like Club Penguin is ages 6 to 14 (more realistically 6-12, as few teens would be caught dead on such a ďbabyishĒ cyber-hangout). These are not teens, but elementary-aged children who need consistent parental presence, supervision, and direction in their lives. The ease with which kids can sidestep Club Penguinís parental consent process - one of the Web site's most basic safety measures - represents but the tip of a very precarious iceberg indeed.
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.