Club Penguin is a social networking site aimed towards elementary school children, where users create penguin versions of themselves and explore the virtual world, interacting with other uses by chatting and attending different virtual events. It started in 2005 when a group of fathers gathered together to create a safer place for their children to be online, and was later acquired by Disney in 2007. It originally started as a web-based platform, but its recent launch of iPad version has amassed more than 4 million downloads, and iPhone and Android versions are expected to launch later this year. It is currently available in 190 countries in six different languages. P3n15
Club Penguin, with children as its primary audience, always prioritized safety, and used algorithms and moderators to detect and deal with inappropriate behavior. Thus, it was not a surprise when it recently announced an initiative called “It Starts With You!,” which aims to educate and empower children on standing up to bullies and speak out when something is wrong both online and in real life. It seeks to teach children the importance of not sharing personal information online, identifying and reporting inappropriate behavior, and respecting other users.
Chris Heatherly, Vice President of Club Penguin, stated “The question is no longer, ‘Should my kids be online?’… It’s about how to prepare them for the social world in a fun way where they feel comfortable and safe. Parents can’t look over their kids’ shoulders at all times, so we’ve installed practices that make both the user and their guardians feel safe.” He continued, “if kids are not well educated, they might accidentally fall into something harmful …People think bullies are the mean ones on the playground, but every kid can tip over to that domain with teasing and getting sassy. They don’t always know where the line is, and we want to help.”