Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Club Penguin and Online Safety #ItStartsWithYou

Last week I was invited to the 1st ever Club Penguin Safety Summit. Club Penguin is the #1 Virtual World for Kids. Chris Heatherly, VP of Club Penguin, described the virtual world as "the largest playground for kids." With over 200 million penguins, in 90 countries and 6 languages, Club Penguin is the first "social media experience" for kids. 

Not only is Club Penguin a fun place for kids, it's dedicated to keeping them safe. Club Penguin goes through great lengths to keep the space bully free for kids. With over 200 moderators (in 4 locations and 6 languages) and specialized technology filters, Club Penguin has multiple layers of safety features.

At the Safety Summit, I learned how rude and inappropriate language is banned. And I was impressed by the complexity of the filters. For example, a player can say "I'm going to the beach" but cannot say "You're such a beach." Players can chat, however, they are unable to share personal information such as email or phone numbers. The moderators also know to look for signs of online predators within the space.     

As parents we worry about our kids. We want to keep them safe on the playground and online. In another effort to continue and promote online safety, Club Penguin has launched the "It Starts With You" campaign. 

"The question is no longer whether kids should be online, but how to prepare them for a social online world,’ said Heatherly. 'It Starts with You!' is about empowering kids and their parents with the information they need to play an active and educated role in online safety.”

The ‘It Starts with You!’ online safety campaign will include:
  • A branded campaign on Disney Channel and Disney’s online networks featuring a safety PSA starring G Hannelius from Disney Channel’s “Dog With A Blog,” the hit comedy series for kids and families.
  • An online safety resource center (http://clubpenguin.com/safety) to help kids and parents learn the latest in online safety and empower them to be good digital citizens. The resource center will offer:
    • Multilingual safety tips for kids about how to protect their information online and be respectful to others
    • Multilingual online safety information and news for parents
    • Printable activity sheets to help kids be thoughtful digital citizens
    • Online safety PSA starring G Hannelius
    • Printable safety pledge for families to take together that encourages communication about online usage and rules.
  • Within the world of Club Penguin, an in-game quiz to test players’ knowledge about online safety. Players that successfully complete the quiz will earn an exclusive virtual item for their penguin avatar. 

Today is Safer Internet Day, the purpose is to "to promote safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, especially amongst children and young people across the world."

Raising a child with autism, bullying is a matter that concerns me. Kids with autism are easy targets and more likely to be bullied. However in recent years, bullying is not only a school yard/playground threat, "cyberbullying has become one of the most prevalent types of bullying that occurs between teens. About 80 percent of all high school students have encountered being bullied in some fashion online." 

I've written about the benefits of video games and kids with special needs. I have seen how it's helped my son. And I'm all for using technology to teach social skills. One day, my son may want to engage in social media. I want him to have the freedom to do so but I want to make sure he is safe. And it's reassuring to know that within Club Penguin, he will be.

Disclaimer: I was invited to the Club Penguin Safety Summit. No monetary compensation was received, all opinions are my own.

images via Disney Interactive    

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AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.