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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Undercover Mom in ClubPenguin, Part 2: Let's get this party started!

by Sharon Duke Estroff

I have to admit I’m pretty darn cute. My avatar, ChillyLily437, that is. I’m 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, I’ve clicked the requisite activation link, and my undercover snowball is officially rolling.

Mom Break: Okay, I promised myself I wasn’t going to put my mom hat back on until at least Day 3. I mean, what’s 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. I’m 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. I’m just saying….

So you may be thinking, "What’s the big deal? Club Penguin is not MySpace or Facebook, it’s a kid-oriented website for heaven’s sake." But that’s 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 “babyish” 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 Penguin’s parental consent process - one of the Web site's most basic safety measures - represents but the tip of a very precarious iceberg indeed.

Next week: "Snow Day"; here are my intro to Undercover Mom and Part 1 of Sharon's series.

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Anonymous CyberSafeNation said...

If your child has been targeted by online predators in child marketed websites, please contact us at We are interested in listening to your story. All details will be kept confidential. Please help us keep kids safe online. Thank you.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Anne said...

I am just as interested as CyberSafeNation in hearing about any encounter a child under 13 has with a predator in a virtual world (because research from the Crimes Against Children Research Center at UNH shows that it's very unlikely), so I hope you'll contact me as well via Thank you,

7:39 PM  

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