Posts Tagged ‘ virtual world ’

5 Things the Virtual Club Penguin World Teaches Through Online Game Play

Friday, April 12th, 2013

The technology infused world that our children are growing up in includes social interactions that occur in real life and online through virtual worlds and mobile devices. As parents, we’re continually challenged to keep up with the newest forms of technology and methods to teach our kids about safe online behaviors.  One of the best ways to teach kids about appropriate social interactions and social networking in an age appropriate way is through Club Penguin.

With over 200 million kids and their penguins populating the online game, Club Penguin is the most popular virtual world for kids. Often called a social network on training wheels, the game serves as an introduction to the online world for kids ages 6 and above. It also provides a multitude of learning opportunities for children and parents alike. During a recent visit to company headquarters, I received an inside look at this virtual world and discovered five things that children can learn through play in the Club Penguin world.

Online safety— From the start of game play, kids begin learning about online safety as they create their penguin name and avatar. Children can be as creative as they want as they name their penguin but each name is reviewed by a member of the human global moderation team that consists of over 200 people in four locations. Moderators check to ensure that kids aren’t giving up any personally identifying information, such as first or last name and address, in their screen name before being allowed to enter the Club Penguin community.

Creative imaginative play— Club Penguin is a world where kids can be creative and use their imaginations to decorate their igloos with an assortment of items, dress their penguin, and devise creative ways to use the props found in the environment. Chris Heatherly, Vice President of Disney Interactive Worlds (aka Spike Hike in the penguin world), believes “Club Penguin is like a cardboard box. We give kids the tools and let them make the play.” The team spends a lot of time listening to conversations between penguins in the online world to incorporate ideas into the products they make. “Anytime an idea comes from a kid, it’s more powerful than when it comes from us,” says Heatherly.

Empowerment through community— Club Penguin recognizes that kids need a place where they can play and be who they are. Heatherly “encourages kids to be wacky, crazy, be themselves” because “the more YOU you are, the better.” Kids are empowered to express themselves through online game play in a world that’s free of judgment. Creative Lead, Charity Gerbrandt (aka Grasstain), shared Club Penguin  “will love and support you and want you to share your crazy ideas that inspire you.”

Appropriate online behavior- Despite the freedom to be creative, Heatherly recognizes that “kids need to feel safe to have fun.” Heatherly recognizes that kids will be kids and test the boundaries of what is acceptable versus what crosses the line but Club Penguin has a variety of tools in place to ensure safety in the community. Players in the Club Penguin world have the ability to report other penguins for inappropriate behavior with the click of a button on a penguin’s profile. Reports are reviewed by the global moderation team who specializes in pop culture with an eye on trends in music and television to ensure that conversation is appropriate. Reminders about behavior are sent but kids can also be banned from Club Penguin. The first infraction comes with a 24 hour ban, a 72 hour ban for the second, and a lifetime ban for the third.

Charitable giving and social good—  Since Club Penguin was founded in 2005, the company founders have given a percentage of membership fees to charitable projects that help children and families around the world. The company works to empower employees to participate in community projects while Club Penguin inspires kids to make a difference through their Coins for Change campaign. Coins earned during game play can be used personally to purchase items to personalize their igloo, outfit their penguin, take care of their pet puffles or donated through Coins for Change. Kids vote about what causes to support through their coin donations. To date, Club Penguin has donated over $10 million since 2007 to help over 200,000 children and their families each year in over 40 countries around the world. The impact of Coins for Change demonstrates that kids don’t have to wait to be adults to make a difference.  Nicole Rustad, Club Penguin’s Corporate Citizenship Program Director who heads up the Coins for Change, says “we believe that kids can be leaders today and they can change the world through what we do on a daily basis and around the world.”

Club Penguin logo courtesy of Disney Interactive

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Electronic Toys for Ages 6 and Under Debuts at Toy Fair 2012

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Last week’s Toy Fair in New York City displayed the newest toys that will debut in 2012.  What are some of the innovative ways toys will incorporate technology this year?  Take a look at some of the items that are on store shelves, available through iTunes as new apps, or will be on store shelves this fall for ages 6 and under.

Furreal Friends Baby Butterscotch Pony— Furreal Friends has been known for soft interactive pets but Butterscotch Pony is even more engaging thanks to an abundance of sensors on her back and face that gauge how a child is playing with her.  Stroke her soft coat and she’ll move her head, blink her eyes, move her ears, or softly whinny.  She nuzzles when you nuzzle her and loves to chomp on her carrots.  $119.99, available Fall 2012 for ages 4+

A Little Book About Feelings iPhone/iPad eBook app— Based on the hardcover book of the same name, Los Angeles based The Mother Company expands their line of products into the digital realm with the release of the A Little Book About Feelings eBook app. The app is designed to teach kids about their feelings but also assists in developing reading skills in a fun, interactive way as the text as it is highlighted as it is being read. Currently available for iPad and iPhone ($0.99) for ages 0-6.

Rocktivity Jump ‘n Jam Guitar— The youngest rockers can get a head start with the motion sensitive Jump ‘n Jam Guitar that starts playing classic and new rock songs from the likes of JLo, KISS, Jackson 5, and more when your child pretends to strum.  $19.99, available Fall 2012 for ages 3+

HoodiePet— Upon first glance, what looks like just another cozy fleece is so much more.  HoodiePet comes with a plush finger puppet toy attached with Velcro to the front so your little one always has a friend nearby.  Additional pets can be purchased separately in the event that a favorite is lost!  For older kids, the HoodiePet website is an interactive world where they can learn about fun facts about animals. $29.99 and available from the HoodiePet website for ages 1-10.

Images courtesy of Furreal Friends, The Mother Company, Playskool, and HoodiePet

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