According to this article in today’s AdWeek, it’s BarbieGirls (an August 13th BG press release states they’ve accumulated 4-million users in the first 90 days and are now adding 45,000 new users a day. It took SL three years to top the 1-million mark, and it’s now closing in on 9-million residents).
Visit the site and you’ll see a video of how membership works – you need to buy a Barbie Girl figure (which looks like it might just be a fancy USB key) that you attach via a dock to your PC in order to get access.
Naturally, concern #1 for most parents would be the pedophile factor, and of course purchase of Barbie Girls is not limited to, well, girls. According to the “Message to Parents” page, there are filters in place that limit words and phrases that can be used and all kinds of features that enable the kids using the site to block weirdos.
Girls being girls, however, I think the biggest thing we’re going to be hearing about once school starts is “virtual bullying” on Barbie Girls. You know, throwing a party online and inviting everyone in the class but Cyenna, etc.
I’d probably have to buy a Barbie Girl to find out, but I wonder – do the community managers offer advice like that painted on the cars driven by the Dearborn Police (“Be nice to people”)? They should – it’s a pretty important lesson.
Maggie, my almost-10 daughter is a highly engaged user of BarbieGirls. It’s one of a few sites we allow her to access completely unsupervised. I’m not one to filter (they are useless in my experience), but we do supervise Hannah’s Internet usage and the computer she uses is in the family room.
The communications with users on BarbieGirls are mediated through parents, and the word whitelisting technology is clever. The kids using the site can have perfectly useful conversations and we don’t need to be worried that something inappropriate will happen.
While the BarbieGirls MP3/USB doohickeys aren’t available in Australia yet, Hannah has a good experience of the site. The limitations are on access to more “exciting” spaces in-world, fancier clothes and apartment accessories and so forth.
The Dearborn police paint “be nice” on their cars? I went and checked out BarbieGirls and found they offer the same advice in Tips for Girls; scroll all the way down to Tip #9: “Always be Nice to Others!… Don’t try to say anything hurtful or naughty to anyone else… or else you could be given a “time out” from the site.”
I really hope sending a girl to the “virtual corner“is a better cure for preteen female bullying than real-world time outs! I expect not… if you’re struggling with the cutthroat dynamics in the school yard and rec room, you could try reading Queen Bees and Wannabes – it helped me figure out some patterns raising my (QB?) daughter, now 15. Couldn’t change the behavior, though…
On another note, with the BarbieGirls online phenomenon; you can’t cut Barbie’s hair or pop her head off and put it on Skipper’s body… But then again, online you don’t have to try keeping teensy plastic shoes on Barbie’s pointy toes, or ram tiny blouse sleeves onto her bony arms! Sorry, I got some childhood flashbacks there…