Monday, March 10, 2008

What Every Mom Should Know about Club Penguin

Just how many times a day do you hear the question, "Mom can I get on Club Penguin"? When my girls aren't watching yet another episode of Hannah Montana or The Suite Life, they are begging me to log them into Club Penguin. If you are like me, you are and should be very careful about the websites your children visit. So, I have taken some time to research Club Penguin. Hopefully you will find this helpful in your decision to let your kids participate on Club Penguin.

Club Penguin Overview: Club Penguin is known as a virtual world. Club Penguin was recently purchased by Disney. The intended audience are children 6-14 years old. Of course it is open for children or anyone of any age. The intention is for children to create a penguin character of their own and to chat with or play games with other penguin characters. When the penguin characters play games the players earn coins that allow them to purchase accessories for their penguins. The site is set up to accept players for free with limited privileges. The players that select to subscribe for $5.95/month have the ability to decorate their own igloos and buy clothing. My daughters have a free account and they are perfectly happy with all the activities available to them. It is easy to join Club Penguin, the child simply requests access to the site by starting a new account. The child must read and accept the terms (rules) of the site. The child then creates and names their penguin. Then the parent is sent an email asking for confirmation that it is OK for the child to have a penguin. The process of starting an account is best done with the parent; otherwise your child will have to wait for the parent to complete the confirmation before they can play.

Safety on Club Penguin: Of course this was my major concern. I know that predators like to disguise themselves as children to gain personal information about the children. In studying the set-up of Club Penguin I have found several safeguards that help prevent any harm to children. First, most activity inside the virtual world is moderated by an adult employee of Club Penguin. Moderators watch and filter the chats between players. I am not 100% positive that all chat areas are moderated. My intention is to contact Club Penguin and get clarity on the subject. The following is an excerpt from Club Penguin's Parent's Player Safety area:
  • Chat Safely As part of its commitment to creating a safe online environment for children and their families, Club Penguin employs a large number of highly trained, on site staff to monitor activity and chat, and provide personalized player support. Club Penguin also offers two chat options:
  • Ultimate Safe Chat limits what users can say to a predefined menu of greetings, questions and statements, as well as emotes, actions and greeting cards. When it comes to chatting, these users can only see other Ultimate Safe Chat messages.
  • Standard Safe Chat allows players to type their own messages to other users. Every message is filtered to allow only pre-approved words and phrases, and block attempts to communicate a phone number or other personal information.
  • Although the filter is continuously updated, comments that could be offensive to some players may occasionally get through. In order to limit that and further protect the security of 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 a moderator is available to help. Players who engage in inappropriate behavior can be silenced or banned.
The rules state that the player could be silenced or banned for using inappropriate language or conduct (like revealing personal information). My experience with the site is that a player's account is suspended for a set amount of time if they break the rules.

At this point, I feel that Club Penguin is safe for children. I will be researching further to see if I can find danger zones or weaknesses within the site.

Update 3/13/08

I contacted Club Penguin and their Corporate Communications Manager was kind enough to provide more information about the safeguards that they have as well as their mission of keeping children safe online. The following is their response:

Your blog seems to cover most of the bases, although we really are more specifically classified as a virtual world than a social network. I think of a social network as someplace like Facebook where you’re encouraged to post photos and personal information and since everything at Club Penguin discourages that, and users are represented as cartoon avatars, I wouldn’t put us in the same category.

We are strongly committed to making Club Penguin a safe and fun online destination for children and, as the founders and many of the staff are parents themselves, it’s a commitment we all take very seriously.

Although we have very strong technological safeguards (such as our filter) in place to ensure appropriate behaviour on the site, we all realize that technology can’t do everything. That’s why we focus a large percentage of our company resources on our highly-trained, onsite customer support team, which consists of more than 100 people whose sole purpose is to monitor activity and chat on the site, respond to player questions and reports of misconduct, and screen penguin names to ensure they meet our guidelines.

An important aspect of Club Penguin and its level of safety stems directly from the fact that we encourage children to be stewards of the site. They feel a strong sense of ownership and responsibility for Club Penguin and the majority of our users are vigilant about following the rules and doing their part to ensure others do too. The sense of community and shared responsibility amongst Club Penguin users for the continued level of comfort and safety on the site is very impressive and plays a big role in keeping Club Penguin the kind of place children and families want to spend time.

Good luck with your blog. Please let me know if I can provide any more information in the future. We have a great new game that just launched which has some fantastic intentional educational outcomes and it might be something other moms would like to hear about. If you visit the upstairs room of the coffee shop and click on the library, just look for the two “Paint By Letters” books to try it out.



Sebastian said...

Yea I am a secret agent on club penguin, it is much easier to report abuse and so on if you are a secret agent, it is free, and after 30 days of having a penguin, you can become a Secret Agent, I recommend becoming a secret agent so you can report abuse as soon as it happens. So to make it easier to keep Club Penguin younger person friendly, I reccomend becoming an agent. To become an agent, just click the icon on the top right of the playing screen, and answer the questions. Thanks.

Ms Bibi said...

I enjoyed reading your article.

Both of my boys (7 and 12) use Club Penguin for years now (weel the older one is). I moniter their internet activities closely, but we never had any issues with Club Penguin.

shannymarie said...

I am going through this same issue currently with my step-daughter. Her mother let her get a facebook account. She's only 9 years old. The facebook rules state you must be at least 13. I am livid about her getting this account, as is my husband. She's not monitored closely enough when on the internet, especially not while she has an ipod touch with her either... it's just a bad idea with bad consequences waiting to happen.