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Parental concerns key

eMarketer points out how important parents’ views of social networking are to this social-Web business. It cites the research of Parks Associates as showing that “virtual world advertising in the United States will increase tenfold to $150 million by 2012 from the 2006 level. That spending could be cut, however, if parents deny permission for teens to visit virtual worlds. And parental approval is not a given, since some aspects of virtual worlds are still discomfiting for parents.” What Mattel’s BarbieGirls.com does is require girls to pick a username, password, and age range (“the choices are 5 or under, 6-7, 8-9, 10-12, 13-15 and 16+”). The also have to provide a parent’s email address, “which is used to send an automated permission request. Once the parent approves, a child can access the site.” Of course kids can find workarounds: It’s impossible to verify that the email address really is the child’s parent’s, and the message “simply asks the recipient to affirm ‘that you are the parent of the child’).” And proof of the child’s age can’t be required because children don’t have ID cards or personal information in any national database against which sites could check (a scary thought – see this on child age verification). [eMarketer this fall issued a very expensive lengthy report on kids' virtual worlds.]

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