Trend Watch: People Are Online What They Are Offline--Divided, and Slow to Build Bridges

IN 2007 Danah Boyd heard a white American teenager describe MySpace, the social network, as “like ghetto or whatever.” At the time, Facebook was stealing members from MySpace, but most people thought it was just a fad: teenagers tired of networks, the theory went, just as they tired of shoes.

But after hearing that youngster, Ms Boyd, a social-media researcher at Microsoft Research New England, felt that something more than whimsy might be at work. “Ghetto” in American speech suggests poor, unsophisticated and black. That led to her sad conclusion: in their online life, American teenagers were recreating what they knew from the physical world—separation by class and race.

A generation of digital activists had hoped that the web would connect groups separated in the real world. The internet was supposed to transcend colour, social identity and national borders. But research suggests that the internet is not so radical. People are online what they are offline: divided, and slow to build bridges.


Report: 90% of Tweens are Playing Online Games & Kids' Mobile and Social Media Use is on the Rise


Kids and Games: What Boys and Girls are Playing Today is a new report launched by M2 Research and youth marketing research firm KidSay. Survey data was collected from over 5,000 kids across the United States.

The report finds a significant increase in kids' online gaming and social media usage. 90 Percent of tweens are playing games online, with mobile and social media use on the rise, as well.

Some of the highlights of the report:

1. Social Networking: Social Networking is increasingly prevalent in children's lives. Facebook is now the favorite website among tween (8-11) boys and teen (12-15) girls.

2. Key Demographic and "Sweet Spot": Online games dominate for boys and girls ages 8-11. 91% of tween boys and 93% of tween girls play games online.

3. Nintendo Dominates Handheld Gaming Space: But thanks largely to the iPad and iPhone, Apple is becoming a significant player especially with girls.

4. Portable Platform Discrepancy: Sony's PSP has largest gender discrepancy. 17% of teen girls play games on the PSP compared to 44% of teen boys.

5. Strong Videogame Franchises: Franchises continue to flourish at the top of the "Favorites" list for boys and girls. The videogame franchise girls prefer is the Mario Series, with 20% of girls picking it as their favorite. Boys prefer Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, with 36% of teen boys picking it as their favorite game.

"We have found kids tend to play a wide variety of games, and their favorite games and gaming sites change often." explains Louise Curcio, M2 Research Analyst. "There are opportunities for companies, and we believe the kids market has been overlooked."

Trend Watch: Universal Pictures Adds 'i-Trailer' For Teen Movie Push

Scott.pilgrim.itrailer Universal Pictures launched an i-Trailer on August 4 to promote Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, debuting the marketing tool on the Yahoo! Movie site. The movie studio partnered with Mark Woollen and Associates to create it.

The i-Trailer has the look and feel of an 8-bit videogame and leads consumers who opt-in to comprehensive information about the film.

Individuals can control the path they go on as they discover facts and information about Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Examples of featured information are where a scene was shot, what the music cue was and how a particular scene in the movie relates to the graphic novel.

The goal is to better engage Universal Pictures' target audience for the film, 13 to 34 year olds, in a one-on-one experience. After its debut on Yahoo! Movies, Universal also made the trailer available on the film's official site.


Infographic: What Americans Do Online


Americans spend nearly a quarter of their time online on social networking sites and blogs, up from 15.8 percent just a year ago (43 percent increase) according to new research released today from The Nielsen Company.

The research revealed that Americans spend a third their online time (36 percent) communicating and networking across social networks, blogs, personal email and instant messaging.

Additional findings include:

  • Online games overtook personal email to become the second most heavily used activity behind social networks – accounting for 10 percent of all U.S. Internet time. Email dropped from 11.5 percent of time to 8.3 percent. (Source: Nielsen NetView)
  • Of the most heavily-used sectors, Videos/Movies (which includes video-specific and movie-related websites only – and is not inclusive of video streaming behavior elsewhere) was the only other to experience a significant growth in share of U.S. activity online. Its share of activity grew relatively by 12 percent from 3.5 to 3.9 percent. (Source: Nielsen NetView)
  • June 2010 was a major milestone for U.S. online video as the number of videos streamed passed the 10 billion mark. The average American consumer streaming online video spent 3 hours 15 minutes doing so during the month. (Source: Nielsen VideoCensus)
  • Despite some predictions otherwise, the rise of social networking hasn’t pushed email and instant messaging into obscurity just yet. Although both saw double-digit declines in share of time, email remains as the third heaviest activity online (8.3 percent share of time) while instant messaging is fifth, accounting for four percent of Americans online time. (Source: Nielsen NetView)
  • Although the major portals also experienced a double digit decline in share, they remained as the fourth heaviest activity, accounting for 4.4 percent of U.S. time online. (Source: Nielsen NetView)

Togetherville: Designing a Social Web Experience for Kids

Togetherville.logo What is it?

Togetherville is a social networking experience intended for your younger children (5-10 year olds). The new service is designed to provide a training ground where parents can teach their kids important lessons about online communication, community building and what it means to be a good digital citizen.

The Togetherville community experience piggy-backs on the Facebook platform and allows grownups to guide their kids through an age-appropriate social networking experience, kid friendly content, moderate connections and interactions all in an ad-free environment.

How does it Work?

In Togetherville, grownups act as the moderator for new contacts, assuming the responsibility for inviting family members/friends and other kids' to join their child's online neighborhood. The 6-to 10-year-olds are invited to engage with their real-world friends, play games, watch videos, and create art.

Is it safe?

Togetherville is intended for kids who are too young for Facebook and is fully compliant with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Kids' are *NOT connected* to anyone without their parents approval, so parents don't need to worry about 'stranger danger.'

Unlike other child oriented social networks, kids' use their real names instead of an alias. This is important because it teaches them to be responsible for their actions within the community. Since their identity isn't a secret, the thinking is that this will reduce the chances that they will engage in cyberbullying or other no-no behaviors.


Togetherville "Allowance"

Allowance is a new site feature that helps teach kids financial literacy while providing parents with a way to reward good behavior, both online and off.

Parents or other approved adults (family members, coaches) can give a child Togetherville currency called "T-bills," which can be spent on virtual goods, games or gifts within each child's unique Togetherville neighborhood.

Once they have T-bills, parents and adults can give Allowance to children for whom they are administrators. Kids and adults can use T-bills for virtual goodies, gifts and games.

As with any feature in Togetherville, a parent or other adult with administrative rights has complete control over who can give their child funds. In addition, just like in the offline world, a parent can suspend or eliminate a child's Allowance at any time.

Developing Healthy Media Habits

A lot of people will say that kids' don't need to be online and that they should go outside and play.

Think of it this way: too much of anything is bad. Too many hours playing video games or watching cartoons--not healthy! Eating too much ice cream, Taco Bell or drinking too much soda are also not a good thing.

It doesn't really matter if it's chocolate milk, riding your bike in the dark, watching too much TV or being online. As adults, we need to be the ones who help children develop healthy habits.

Social by Design

Think of Togetherville as a social networking apprenticeship where parents act as a Facebook "expert" who mentor and help their children through the experience of participating in a social networking community.

The situated learning theory argues that learning and knowledge acquisition takes place only when situated in a social and authentic context.

Ultimately this process –known as legitimate peripheral participation—moves the newcomer deeper into a community of practice leading them closer to acquiring the knowledge and skills required to be an expert. In Togetherville, young kids' will form a community of practice (and safety net) consisting of their peers, site moderators, and several parent "experts."

Cognitive apprenticeship is an instructional design and learning theory wherein the instructor (or parent), through socialization, models the skill or task at hand for the child. Kids' may also receive guidance from and learn from their peers.

The role of the parent is to help novices (in this case, your kids') clear cognitive roadblocks (Facebook/social networking) by providing them with the resources needed to develop a better understanding of social media. This process is called scaffolding.

Ultimately the kids will become an expert who no longer needs the scaffolding provided by Togetherville and/or parental guidance. In turn, they will have a better understanding of potential roadblocks and are now equipped the skills to navigate the world of social media/networking sites like Facebook.

Putting it All Together

In the end, what's important here is to take a balanced position when it comes to kids and technology. As a parent or teacher, don't be afraid to jump into the technology and social media pool and get your feet wet.

Use this as an opportunity to spend time with your kids and learn more about how they are using technology, mobile phones and social media in their lives.

Most importantly, when it comes to kids and social networking, don't panic!

The Real Life Social Network: Google, Online Relationships & Influence

Googlelogo150 The future of the Web is social. What does that mean? Google is trying to figure it out.

The company's previous attempts to corner the social Web, like Google Wave and Buzz, fizzled or failed to sustain much, well, buzz.

But the company is making waves online with a new 216-page slide show that tries to explain how we interact online and how we use those interactions to make purchasing and reading decisions.

It's a long, fascinating document, notable more for its clarity of thought than for any mind-blowing insights.




Trend Watch: Social Media in the UK 2010 [Video]


This is a little video produced by Ireland-based PR firm Simply Zesty that explores the state of social media in the UK.

The video includes some interesting social media stats and other demographic information, including: 85% percent of the UK population is online and they spend over 6 hours on social media sites every month, nearly 60% of them read blogs and 64% have their own profile on a social network.

Study: Video Games May Sap Attention Span

Parents who believe that playing video games is less harmful to their kids' attention spans than watching TV may want to reconsider -- and unplug the Xbox. Video games can sap a child's attention just as much as the tube, a new study suggests.

Elementary school children who play video games more than two hours a day are 67 percent more likely than their peers who play less to have greater-than-average attention problems, according to the study, which appears in the journal Pediatrics.

Playing video games and watching TV appear to have roughly the same link to attention problems, even though video games are considered a less passive activity, the researchers say.

"Video games aren't less likely than television to be related to attention problems," says the lead author of the study, Edward Swing, a doctoral candidate in the department of psychology at Iowa State University, in Ames. "They were at least as strong as television at predicting attention problems."

However, the study doesn't prove that video games directly cause attention problems. It could be that kids who have short attention spans to begin with might be more likely to pick up a joystick than a book, for instance.


Pew Research Center | Cyberbullying 2010

This talk provides an updated look at the research and definitions around bullying and cyberbullying and  draws upon the work of Amanda Lenhart from the Pew Internet Project, UNH's Crimes Against Children Research Center, the work of Internet Solutions for Kids as well as research by professors Sameer Hinduja and Justin Patchin.

Originally presented to the Youth Online Safety Working Group assembled by National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), this talk unpacks both what current research can tell us about cyberbullying as well as where the gaps our understanding of this issue lie.

Related: Printable Handout: Digital Parenting Social Media & Internet Safety Resources

Digital Parenting Resources: Teens, Social Networking & Cyberbullying

Social.montage One of the things I enjoy most about my work is having the opportunity to talk with parents, educators and brands to dispel some of the myths or fears around kids' use of social media.

No matter the audience, my message is pretty consistent: Don't panic!

I'm also frequently asked to share some of my favorite digital parenting links, tips and other resources. So here we go! I've sorted through my bookmarks and put together this (hopefully) handy handout. Feel free to print it, tweet it and share it with anyone you think would find it helpful.

Digital Parenting

I'll be updating it as new issues and resources pop up on my radar. If you have a great resource, please feel free to share it in the comments section and I'll add it to a future draft of this handout.

The Myth of the Digital Native

“If we over-estimate their skills we underestimate the support they need and misunderstand their practices.”Dr. Sonia Livingstone

Over the last decade there has been lots of talk, in both the press and educational circles, about the technological prowess of "digital natives." We've heard a lot about what's exciting in educational technology, but the reality is that teachers still see a lot of kids struggling to use technology.

Sonia Livingstone 2010 Digital Media and Learning Conference Keynote

During her keynote at DML 2010, Dr. Sonia Livingstone (London School of Economics) shared the following examples from her research and interviews with both parents and kids on the difficulties "digital natives" face using technology:

  • Example: Going to a Web site–can take a half hour, involve parents & most give up.
  • Example: Parents thought their child was very savvy, but something about the style of her use didn't reveal her struggles. "Megan" is confident, but one can observe her many struggles while she uses technology.
  • Example: 17-year-old, quoted: "With books it's a lot easier to research. I can't really use the internet for studying." Another, "Every time I try to look for something, I can never find it. It keeps coming up with things that are completely irrelevant."
  • Example: Teens often didn't know how to change their privacy settings, unsure about what to click to manage this task. (Nervousness about unintended consequences: stranger danger, parental anxiety, viruses, crashed computers, unwanted advertising, etc.)

When it comes to youth and digital media we tend to be conservative in the type of content we give young people and far more aggressive when approaching them with digital media tools.

It’s important to remember that just because we include digital media doesn’t mean youth know how to make meaning or engage with these technologies.

Nielsen: TV Viewer Loss Blamed On Video Games

Xbox360 Television's prime time is video games' prime time.

Television viewer erosion is the result of a fractionalized viewership -- which is due, in large part, to cable viewing and Internet usage. But a lot of video game usage is also contributing, especially in the evening hours between 7 and 11 p.m.

A new study by the Nielsen Games measuring division says Xbox 360 usage, for example, hits nearly 25% between 7 and 11 p.m, with men around 23% and women's usage at around 17%.

Xbox 360 users are comprised of 45% 18- to-34-year-olds, 31% 12- to-17-year-olds, 13% 2- to-11-year-olds, 7% 35- to-44-year-olds and 3% 45- to-54-year-olds.


(Sorta) Related: Google Adds TV Episode Search

Trend Watch: LEGO Digital Box + Augmented Reality Marketing

This augmented reality kiosk called "DIGITAL BOX" has been developed by LEGO Digital Systems and metaio. After an evaluatiion phase it is now rolled out to LEGO brand stores worldwide and is widely considered to be one of the best examples of augmented reality in marketing.

Ideally, customers want to hold the product in their hands and look at it closely from all angles. But for products like LEGO sets, it can take hours of construction before you know what the toy really looks like.

Children of all ages can now hold LEGO boxes up to the DIGITAL BOX and watch a 3D animation of the product - from all angles, in every detail - in their hands. This is made possible by metaio, which fuses virtual 3D animations into a live video of the completed LEGO set.

While this is a pretty slick implementation of augmented reality in a youth marketing context, I think it actually is a powerful example of how a brand can leverage augmented reality as a digital storytelling tool.

It's one thing to look at the picture on the box, but to see the LEGO set come to life in 3D that provides youth marketers with exciting new opportunities to create a virtual storyline that draws the customer deeper into the world of LEGO and allows them to connect on a deeper, emotional level with the brand.

Sorta Related: LEGO to Launch Line of Youth Electronics