My Research: Tween Social Networking Pt1

Posted on April 24, 2007. Filed under: My Research, Tween Social Networking |

Starting today, I am going to start getting more use out of this experiment aka The Lair, by using it as an archive for all of my ongoing research. These constantly updated posts will be added to the Resources area of this blog.

All of this information I found by scouring the web. Feel free to peruse and refer to collections, however if you use/quote my direct comments, please do the right thing and credit me. Big Brother will inevitably lead me to you and well, it could get awkward.

Thanks.

This entry is the beginning of ongoing efforts to track and predict the world of Tweens and their social networking habits.

Tween Social Networking: My Notes

April 1st. 2007

The two most popular virtual world/social networking sites for ages 6-15 right now seem to be Gaia Online and Club Penguin. Close runners up are Imbee and Webkinz.

My Notes: Tweens and younger are learning their real world social skills increasingly through online interactions. Life’s little lessons are taking on a whole new level of complexity unique to this generation.

Questions:
How do parents instruct their children on chat etiquette, profile honesty/dishonesty, internet safety, and virtual worlds?

– What specific social behaviors is a virtual world teaching?/tracking common behaviors
Is the overemphasis of consumerism within these worlds going to harm children in the long run?

– Do networking sites help or hurt a child’s ability to build good relationships offline?

The websites and descriptions provided below will be useful to track as part of xxxx’s overall redesign and in coming up with xxxx-unique/original site functionality.

Club Penguin (Around since 2005)
Website: http://www.clubpenguin.com/
Info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Club_penguin
Kids use animated penguins to wander through a snowy virtual world, playing games and winning “coins” which allow them to buy and furnish their very own igloos. It’s also a social networking site, where kids can meet and talk to total strangers.

Reviews: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/website-reviews/Club-Penguin.html

Kid Review:
Reviewer: carlrgore (9 years old),
Date: April 12, 2007
I say: CP Reveiw…
Club Penguin is the best multipalyer online! It’s just so friendly they always got games palces everything!

Gaia Online (Around since 2003)
Website: http://www.gaiaonline.com/
Info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaia_Online
Community roleplaying site with anime, manga, and video game discussions as well as a links database and a fan-art gallery.

This world has a plot that is illustrated through staff controlled comics and NPCs. (Like participating in an ongoing anime comic series). People mention it’s similarity to Neopets (old school).

Like in Virtual Laguna Beach, you can customize your own avatar and use virtual currency for many uses, as well as real money for special items. A user can really customize their avatar character with skin color, eye, hair, clothes, and poses.

They have a forum system (collection of message boards) which give users the opportunity to post their ideas, engage in discussion, chat, or post nonsense. Gaians may roleplay in a storyline of their own, or interact with NPCs. Gaia is home to many main forums, which are further divided into subforums. Users’ posts usually appear in a speech bubble next to the poster’s avatar. They can also join and create guilds.

Games – Within Gaia, there are around six games you can play where you can earn items as a reward.

Navigating – There is a world map that depicts the various towns in Gaia, and contains links to forums, guilds, etc. Locations change according to time and season.

Gaia Stats: http://www.big-boards.com/board/60/
Recent Gaia Reader reviews:
http://blogs.ign.com/ChiBKey/2007/03/15/49369/
http://www.stumbleupon.com/url/www.gaiaonline.com/

A kid’s post:
punky-nicky•Mar 26, 12:13pm
I LOVE this site. Itz 1 of the most addicting sites I have ever been on. It has lotz of game rooms. Lotz of different forums with LOTZ of topics. You can create ur own virual avatar with lotza clothing to choose from. You can create ur own virtual house. You can dress up your profile page. And sooooooooooooooooooo much more. You rarley get bored on this site!!!! I recommend this site 4 every1!!!! I got alot of my friends to join. P.S They have gained alot of cool features in the past 2 months, and now we have ages 12-24 on there….

Other Tween or younger Social Networking Sites
Whyville.net
Habbo Hotel
Nicktropolis’
Toontown
Virtual Magic Kingdom
Imbee
Webkinz
Girlsense

Note: Most of the Disney and Nickelodeon sites don’t let kids do what their older brothers and sisters are doing on Myspace.com and other social networks: blogging, downloading songs, sharing photos and watching music videos. Imbee, which launched last summer and is still in beta, boasts a “secure” network that lets kids do most of those activities–if not all of them now, it will offer them soon–in a private community, away from potential predators

Tween Social Networking Links (ongoing):

KidzBop – KIDZ BOP fans of all ages can find KIDZ BOP CDs, play interactive games, create custom web pages, and upload videos to share with friends and family.

Industrious Kidbuilds a family of Internet destinations for children between the ages of 8 and 14.
http://www.industriouskid.com/

Creator of tween social network nabs Disney VC investment
http://news.com.com/2061-12645_3-6170187.html

Nickelodeon Launches Nicktropolis Web Playground (old but relevant)
http://www.mediaweek.com/mw/news/recent_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003538925

Puffle Kerfuffle
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/15.03/posts.html?pg=2

Your Igloo or Mine?
Web sites like Club Penguin have introduced social networking to children. Welcome to MySpace in braces.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17266131/site/newsweek/

Searching for Sex in Club Penguin
http://www.joystiq.com/2007/04/12/playing-dirty-searching-for-sex-in-club-penguin/

Online, Club Penguin Beckons to Preteen Surfers
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6923823

BBC to launch second life for Kids
http://www.marketingvox.com/archives/2007/01/23/bbc-to-launch-second-life-for-kids/

Online Tween Behavior-related Links

Experts:
Danah Boyd
Doctoral candidate in the School of Information at the University of California at Berkeley
studies of teen behavior online.
Report: http://digitalyouth.ischool.berkeley.edu/node/70

Warren Nightingale
media education specialist at the Media Awareness Network, a children and technology educational nonprofit in Canada.
http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/index.cfm

Interesting excerpt:
…For teenagers, the performance of a relationship has an additional axis. Many teens have little mobility or freedom to actually go on dates. Quite often, teenage relationships consist entirely of mediated conversations (phone, IM, MySpace), school interactions, and the discussion of the relationship amidst one’s peers in both public and private settings. The rare opportunity to meet up with one’s girlfriend/boyfriend is treasured and for many teens, it is worth risking getting into trouble just to be able to connect with that person in meatspace. While physical interactions are deeply desired, they are typically quite rare. Likewise, while the 1950s Hollywood image of teen dating involves soda shops, drive-in movie theaters, and other public encounters, this is not available to many teens. Although the mall and move theater are still desired outtings for teen couples, many have far greater access to networked publics like MySpace than they do to unmediated publics. Thus, it’s natural that the primary plumage display takes place in these forums.

Children’s Technology Review Magazine
http://www.childrenssoftware.com/

Teens break up in MySpace comments
http://news.com.com/2061-12645_3-6171409.html

Girls on Social Networking Sites
http://www.more.com/more/story.jsp?catref=cat5370024&page=10&storyid=/templatedata/more/story/data/1150314440627.xml

The MySpace Generation (from 2005 but interesting)
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_50/b3963001.htm

How not to launch a social network
http://www.churchofthecustomer.com/blog/2007/01/how_not_to_laun.html
To launch and promote a social network using the tired tools of announcements and press releases is to not understand their people-are-the-message subtext.

04/04/07 – BD VP for NYC’s GirlSense Tween Social Network

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4 Responses to “My Research: Tween Social Networking Pt1”

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A common misconception is that Gaia is for kids and teens.

It is for teens and young adults. There is a strict age limit of 13+ and a pg13(which mainly just prohibits nudity/porn/excessive gore) rating. Tweens would be an inappropriate term for a vast majority of users.

In fact, last time I came upon statistics concernin age groups, the average user was in their early late teens or early twenties.

I never stated that Gaia was a kid/tween site. However, I think you can agree that whether or not Gaia was initially created for older teens/young adults, the reality is that there is a huge population of tweens consistently logging on. As within MySpace (which is supposed to be for 14+ but come on), if a tween likes a site they will find a way to participate.

[…] Tween Social Networking Daniela Capistrano Toyota targets kids to influence parents Marketing Vox […]

[…] I’m not going to contextualize this with ‘goods and bads’ other than to point out that each tween is different in their capacity to filter everything from language slurs and behavioral cues to offers of marriage and such all in the name of ‘entertainment.’ (some informal research on pros/cons of the quality of kids’ social interactions from “Daniela’s Lair” here) […]


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