They're job is to protect the world, ours is to keep them safe.

They're job is to explore the world, ours is to keep them safe.

 

 

There’s an infomercial currently airing in which a woman suggests her computer skills lag significantly behind those of her 3-year-old daughter. The woman could be a complete idiot (entirely possible), her daughter might be a genius (less likely) or she was asked to exaggerate for effect (bingo!).

Still there is a nugget of truth in that advertising rhetoric. The next generation is growing up with far more access to emerging technology than any previous age group. Kids as young as 2 and 3 are gifted toy cell phones and laptops, preparing them for an easy transition into the real items.

This increased familiarity imposes new responsibilities on those charged with designing marketing messages for the younger set as well as those who cultivate brand relationships. It negates any defense that the target audience lacks enough sophistication to get itself into trouble and it demands the marketers provide a solid foundation for future use of new media.

First, marketing pros must provide a safe environment for children to communicate with one another. A plethora of new sites feature interactive elements, including internal chat platforms and virtual realms, that cry out for improved checks and balances relating to secure access. Most of the sites, like groovygirls.com or webkins.com, simply require a purchase to receive a code. From there, anyone of any age with any agenda can register,
set up their online persona and begin conversing. At the very least, companies fielding such services should monitor the discussions for any sign of inappropriate language. In addition, registration should require some imprint from a parent or guardian. The form should clearly state in legible print that parents are encouraged to monitor their child’s
interaction with the site as well as note the inability of any Web site to provide 100 percent security.

Second, marketers utilizing new media in reaching children should provide ample framework for the child as they move into pre-teen and teen years. We need to teach 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds ways of protecting themselves while still enjoying the communicative advantages of today’s emerging media. In addition to tutorials provided within the actual chat room platforms, the Direct Marketing Association should consider fielding a progressive public service campaign underscoring safe surfing and chatting techniques.

The final bark
Alexander Pope once said a little knowledge is a dangerous thing … So true when dealing with children. They know enough to utilize new media but not enough to keep themselves safe. That responsibility falls to those of us who have outgrown Saturday morning cartoons.

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