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| City Or Country? Discuss.

September 22, 2006


Anne Tergesen

Last Wednesday, while I was at work, two classmates of my eight-year-old son’s introduced him to an online social networking site for children ages 8 to 14 called Club Penguin. When I got home from work, my three boys were wild with enthusiasm over this web site, which is loaded with games. Never a big fan of screens, I was mildly annoyed. But when my boys proudly unveiled the new “friends” they’d met on this site, I was more than annoyed--I was worried.

I’m still debating Club Penguin. On the one hand, as my husband points out, my kids are going to be spending an awful lot of time online—and at a much younger age than previous generations. The sooner they learn the dos-and-don’ts of online behavior, the better. But I still worry. After all, even if my eight-year-old can grasp the nuances of online safety, how can my six-year-old or my four-year-old? It’s very hard to grant one child computer privileges while denying the others—especially when I’m not always around to monitor the situation.

Online safety is something every parent worries about. But perhaps working parents have an even bigger cause for concern than stay-at-home parents, who have the opportunity to at least loosely supervise what’s happening on the computer. It’s no accident that the Club Penguin discovery occurred while I was at work: I don’t normally allow my kids to go online—a fact I had somehow failed to convey to our nanny. I stupidly assumed my kids were too young to be interested in e-mail, social networking, or surfing the web.

What to do? I guess I can look into installing a parental block on the computer until I feel they’re old enough to safely navigate the web. Of course, that approach won’t help when they go to friends’ homes. Alternatively, I may allow Club Penguin on a trial basis. Whether my husband and I choose to let the online genie out of the bottle now or later, I plan to take seriously the advice of my colleague, Toddi Gutner, who just wrote an article about social networking sites for young kids in BusinessWeek. She recommends: 1) having a candid conversation with your child about Internet safety; 2) monitoring online activities until you’re comfortable that your child is exercising good judgment 3) instructing your child to say “no thanks” to all who ask to be online buddies, unless the request comes from someone your child knows in the real world; 4) reviewing the online safety guidelines at; 5) asking your child to read and sign the very sensible contract at that spells-out what he or she can and cannot do online; 6) limiting the amount of time the child is allowed to spend online each day; 7) placing the computer in a "public" spot so activities and screen time can be monitored. For working parents, I’d add one more item to the list: 8) Discussing your philosophy with the nanny before you have a Club Penguin problem.

10:57 AM


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My kids did Club Penguin and now they're on to Runescape (at the same site). They're 11 and 7. The 11 year old is definitely more into it than my 7 year old. I will often sit with them for a few minutes at a time while their playing. That way they know that I might pop in and watch. I also ask them what they did in the game and remind them frequently not to give our their real names or personal information.

And we limit the amount of time they're online as well. I personally think that many of these games provide useful skills as well as entertainment, but that needs to be balance with reading, board games, and outdoor activities.

Posted by: Laura at September 23, 2006 09:48 AM

i have somethin t say abot clubpenguin it safe i plaeyed on it my son member its the best but i will not let him on myspace

Posted by: billly at October 8, 2006 10:07 AM

As a working parent, Im an avid reader of your blog. I'm also a PR guy and

thought you may be interested in IMSafer ( - full disclosure they are a client of mine) which helps with some of the fears that all parents may have when their children join social networking sites and are acquiring "friends." As these "friends" start

IMing with your children, IMSafer will send you notifications if there are inappropriate requests made or whether other parents have chosen to restrict IMs from that source. You can then choose whether or not to allow that

person to keep contacting your child.

It's a new product, made by smart parents and hopefully will help ease some parent's minds.

Posted by: Josh at October 10, 2006 12:24 AM

Clubpenguin is a safe site that influences the right online behavior for children. I'm sure that there will be no stalkers on Clubpenguin. I think it is the safest site that your kids could possibly get involoved with. If they give out their address or phone number or any personal info like that it goes through a very technical filter and will not be seen on the other player's screen. They are not allowed to use inappropriate language on Clubpenguin either. They will be banned for a certain amount of time, and if they do use suck language it wil not show up on someoneelse's screen as it has gone through the filter. There are also moderators who monitor activity on Clubpenguin. A moderator has to be at leaser 18 years of age and has to be very responsible. I highly recommend Clubpenguin to all parents and their children as it is made just for children and to promote appropriate online activity.

Posted by: LTB at November 14, 2006 05:27 PM

My brother has just taken my Mum's card and without her consent signed up. He's been mildly addicted to it, and the fact that all you need is a pseudonym and e-mail address made me think that he could potentially (and very plausably) be talking to a psycho on the other end. He's not really done anything as bad as this and is now surely banned from the internet for the next few months without even slight doubt. It's addictive and easy to sign up, with virtually NO safeguards or parental consent needed to begin membership. One shouldn't be able to access this site without some adult confirmation. Lots of other kids do well and are monitored. He was monitered and would wait till backs were turned. No way to tell what's going on, although this is a personal story, one should be very cautious.

Posted by: Francis Annan at December 4, 2006 05:34 PM

i think that clubpenguin has been some issue to my children too becouse they have tryed to stell my credit card to sign up relly what kind of carzy act is that i found out in my bill that he stoll it and signd up so i took his rights from the computer away for a long time but the point is im trying to teach him that its just not right to do that.

Posted by: allie at December 22, 2006 12:02 PM

i let my kids useclub penguin and i think it is perfectly safe

i read through all the parents bit and privacy and safety and it is completly safe

it also teaches your kids the rules of chatting online and i would reccomend it to every one else

Posted by: sophie at February 20, 2007 01:22 PM

alright you realy need to cool down ok the web site is fully moderated and your way too strict with your kids ok!! you know you can't block everything forever now come on lady the site is fully moderated and then if anyone ask for pesonal info they are banned and its better than them seeing a blood and sex and other weird things heck they could be on myspace then when a naked lady is there background its alot safer on club penguin then myspace ever was heck dont take my word for it check the parents section on the site at please listen to me i know my facts

Posted by: jordan at March 15, 2007 08:39 PM

One day I came home from work and found my child playing on Club Penguin. I asked her what she was doing and told me all about Club Penguin. She seemed very excited about it and even recomended me to read the parent question/answer screen. I was very impressed on how well monitered Club Penguin was. I allowed her to play it and she often gives me updates on what sort of events are happening. One thing I was very impressed by was how the 'newspaper' is always suggesting online safty. For parents that are still conccerned I recomend using the 'Ultimate Safe Chat.' It is a feature where your child can only say a list of things provided for them. One last thing: my child told me that there is one special feature she really likes. It is a secret agency formed for the children. It gives them the power to report other children who have been breaking the rules by swearing, using sexual talk, or being rude or mean. There is no need to worry about children on Club Penguin because it is a safe online enviroment made for children.

Posted by: Jean at March 30, 2007 10:49 PM

I agree. Though The same thing has happened too me Come home my kids are playing on the internet. At first the thoughts of my kids on the internet were bad ones. But They told me about club penguin and I asked them well whats it about? They said it,s about playing games and chatting with real people!!! And said if you wanna read about it you can. I reveiwed the rules and found no fault at all in club penguin. I even granted them membership and now there always showing off there igloo too me. By the way I got two kids one is 9 other is 11. I find club penguin very entertaining and perfectly safe for your kids!!!

Posted by: John at April 24, 2007 11:06 AM

Girl your freakin over nothing its safe your just over sheltering them!

Posted by: amy at April 26, 2007 08:11 PM

My 7-year-old has been playing Club Penguin for a few months now after everyone in his class started playing it and the teacher lets them after lunch each day (each kid gets 8 min.). The problem is, my son can never get enough. One day I experimented at home and he played 4 hours and would have kept going. He didn't even get up to go the bathroom. Now I limit it to 20 min. a day. My problem with this game is that it's all about making money and acquiring stuff. My son still needs to learn values, morals, how to be a friend -- all sorts of things that are not about material goods! I think the game also overstimulates him and he should be reading books or playing in his free time. I don't see any educational value and I don't like the idea of strangers asking to be his friends when I am telling him in the real world not to talk to strangers (we live in a large city). Lastly, this game is set up to lure your kid and then they ask for money. Then your kid comes and bugs you to join, every day, constantly, because he keeps bumping up against the need to be a member to play the game fully. He wanted to steal a credit card, too, just like someone else said on this list. I couldn't believe it -- my son has never stolen anything. I think this game is addictive, encourages kids to think they are being like a grown up to do all this spending, buying and owning things -- and there's so much more to life than this. They cleverly have kids earning hundreds of pretend money so a kid can't see why we wouldn't pay a measily $6 a month for their membership. The message is get lots of money and spends lots of money. Is that what we want to teach our kids? I hope my comments have been helpful to all you caring parents on this list :)


Posted by: mom45 at April 30, 2007 01:15 PM

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