If you don’t have a ten year old roaming around your house, you may not be aware of the cold, cruel politics of the must-do social media scene of the fourth grade: Club Penguin.
Under the lordship of Disney, Club Penguin is a program which allows little penguinators to run-wait, waddle- around in various venues and meet up with each other penguins for various reasons.
Once you sign up for Club Penguin, which you are really only supposed to do with your parent’s assistance, you get to give your penguin a name and a color and a few other things. You then go to a room with some catchy snow title (like “The Avalanche” let’s say) and you ask other penguins to be your buddies. My 21 year old daughter (who used to use MySpace and now prefers Facebook) calls Club Penguin “a playground for pedophiles.” The irony. Anyway, once you have made buddies you can do various activities in penguin land, like go the coffee shop, the gift shop, the dance club and so forth. Really?
So the kids call each other on the phone and they say, “Hey, I’ll meet you at the coffee shop.” They put each other on the speaker phone and start moving from place to place as they play Club Penguin. Mind you, now you can’t use the phone or the computer so if you share one, too bad for you.
But wait. It gets better.
All of this for free…UNLESS you want to have the bigger igloo, the better clothes and the finer accessories. For that, you’re going to need to pay a monthly fee. If you don’t pay that monthly fee, your poor penguin will only be dressed and sheltered in the bare minimum–oh, and not able to go to the “special places” other penguins go.
Is it just me or is this a really bad idea??
After heated discussions with our son, my husband and I refused to contribute money (or let our son contribute his own money which he was more than ready to do) for this concept we are philosophically against. We’ve had parents tell us, “But this is real life.” We question whether a ten year old needs to be buying into this allusion, and whether or not that is spiritually healthy. We argue no.
But these are old battles. Here’s the newest, most up-to-date penguin debacle.
Two days ago our son walked in with his head hung low and said, “Somehow Max hacked into my Club Penguin account, turned my penguin pink and deleted all my buddies. He did it to my other friend, too. He went into his account and put in a cuss word and got him banned for 24 hours.”
In the world of a fourth grader, this is not the little stuff. This is the big stuff.
Turns out there is lots of conversation about bribes and passwords that happens at school. It goes something like this: “If you don’t give me your password, I’m going to tell the teacher you’re cheating on blah blah blah…” Fourth grade blackmail. Or like this: “You’re such a good friend. I feel bad for you that your parents are too cheap to pay for the membership and I want you to be able to go to the stage so you won’t be humiliated so I’ll give you my password.”
Don’t even get me started on penguin support who insists–in really nice language–they are more secure than Folsom and politely chastise you for ever letting your child know their password and assure you that any penguin acting inappropriately will be delt with most severely but that only that penguin’s parents (as if they are watching in the first place-hello?) can deal with issue if the penguin is misbehaving.
My son, in all his wisdom, said, “I think I’ll just close my account and hang up Club Penguin for awhile.” We can dream. Of course, today is a new day and when the call comes in, “Hey, do you wanna play Club Penguin?,” I’m not sure the resolve will remain.