A colleague of mine, (let’s call her Mom X) is an experienced media/marketing pro living the suburbs of a U.S. city. She is embarking on a project/experiment to let her Jr. High age daughter wade into the social media world via Face book. This opens up many questions and concerns that parents all over the world are now facing. We are going to follow their progress to give insight to other parents and marketers who want to reach the lucrative youth market. Click here to read the intro to the series.
She does not want to use her name or location to protect her privacy, and more importantly, the privacy of her daughter.
For starters, AOL Safe Social (AOL SS) appears to be a very useful product and the early shortcomings seem to be part of the content, not the concept. Here is what has happened so far:
After one week Daughter X has friended 74 people. Safe social has tagged about 15 of them as “recent alerts: appears to be an adult based upon their age”. One of them was my boss, who is following this project and has known my daughter since she was born. However, using the term “adult” to describe him is open to interpretation. :)
Another “friend”/adult are a cousin who is over 18. The rest of them, who are listed to be between 22 and 35 ARE ALL OF HER FRIENDS IN HER AGE GROUP who have lied about their ages to get Facebook accounts. Wouldn’t you think if you were going to make your own “virtual fake ID” you would pick an age that was slightly closer to the truth? You only have to be 13 to be on Facebook. In addition, I love the faces of Jr. High School kids posted next to their birth dates which make them 35 – for God sakes, some of them are still missing teeth!
In addition to getting “alerts” based on the ages of her friends, I also receive notification of which sites the visit/follow. This comes with a couple of heads ups based upon the appropriateness of their activity and the association with someone in her age group. I “like” this feature. The service also provides me a quick over view of her photos and videos, which is great for a quick review.
Now here is an interesting twist: AOL SS sends me alerts based upon certain words that come up from Daughter X and her postings. In this case the words “LAID” and “PARTY” were tagged. For the record it was posted as “LAID” as in “laid back and mellow” and “Party” as in “life of the party”. Very innocuous, but I could see their concern. Even more interesting is that in a descriptor of her personality based upon her ice cream preference; she had a post which contained the words “seductive” and “intimate relationships”. These phrases did not raise a digital eyebrow? Wonder who is making up the “vocabulary words to be concerned with” list?
So far, the experience is a mix of digital eavesdropping and reliving the beginning of the most awkward years of your life all over again… On one hand I feel like I am spying on my daughter and her friends and listening in on their conversations. For that matter, I feel like that sometimes with my own friends. Every now and then I read a post that I think might have been better off for one-on-one and not one-on-hundreds communication!
Most of the stuff that the kids write is pretty benign but slightly awkward. Here is a perfect example:
What ice cream flavor suits you - chocolate
DAUGHTER X result: chocolate
you are lively, creative, dramatic, charming, enthusiastic and the life of the party. Chocolate fans enjoy being at the center of attention and can become bored with the usual routine. Seductive, well-dressed, extroverted, easily influenced, a follower, intuitive, enjoys intimate relationships.
Just because my daughter likes chocolate ice cream it makes her “seductive” – back to my who’s picking the vocabulary list? Frankly, I am pretty sure she doesn’t know what seductive means just yet, but after a few more Kesha videos and I am sure she will. It’s not inappropriate yet, she and her posse are just defining who they are with the tools they have at hand. It’s interesting and harmless so far. I still feel braced for what is to come. And, while this is the stuff that makes me cringe a bit I guess it will be easier to guide her through upcoming life changes and dramas if I better understand how she and her gang communicate and define themselves.
Anybody else using this software yet? Anybody else trying it with out the safety net? Let me know, and will keep you posted.
Heading to get mocha chip, wonder what that makes me?