5 posts categorized "Children's Virtual Worlds"

July 24, 2012

Why I started MiniMonos.

Melissa and monkeys

This week someone asked me why I started MiniMonos.  This is what I said: 

I grew up with the strong belief that we have an obligation to leave the world (humanity and the environment we are inseparable from), a better place than when we arrived here.  This has shaped my worldview, and as an adult I know that my worldview is my choice.  I choose to want to leave the world a better place.  The reality is that I want to do that every day, not just to leave a legacy when I die.

The older I get, the more I realise that entrepreneurs create businesses as an expression of who we/they are. Because I am driven to create businesses, and they are a form of my self expression - then my businesses make a positive difference in the world.

I can't imagine not being an entrepreneur - I love the process of knowing a market; having an idea that will solve a problem for that market; learning from others; putting together a great team; working out the business model and then creating the business and products..and then continuously repeating and refining all those steps. The world is full of problems that need solving, and as an entrepreneur we can solve them. Whenever someone tells me they want to start a business but they don't know what to to..then I just tell them to look for a really big problem and set to work solving that.

EcoProjects front page widgetMiniMonos was born from the desire to make sure that our children have the skills and confidence to address the massive environmental issues they will have to face as a result of the last few hundred years of humanity's impact on the planet. Our kids are coming into an era where extinction of species is ramping up; where the air and water are becoming increasingly polluted; where climate may be irreversibly changed. The results of all of those things could be catastrophic.

We have to work to prevent our impact on the earth, but also we need to give kids the skills to deal with what comes next - how do our kids get great social skills so they can negotiate? How to have them remember that we are all interconnected (humanity and the nature we are part of)? How to enthuse them about creativity and science and maths?  We can't do all of that, but we can do some..and that is where to start.

I love being an entrepreneur because it allows me to make a difference.

June 14, 2012

Do you have time to keep your children safe online?

  Girl on computer 
A couple of nights ago I went to a parent information evening at my son's school about internet safety.  I am in awe of the way his school handles issues in the playground -- it's obvious they've spent a lot of time and resources training their staff -- so I thought I could pick up some extra philosophical tips for our online moderation of MiniMonos.

The young groovy teacher, introduced as a "digital native", was no doubt a whizz on the computer. But I was surprised to find that her advice to parents about online safety was surface level at best, and while there was lively conversation about the issues parents face, there were few useful take-home solutions.

For one thing, we heard the standard: "Parents need to be actively involved in what their kids are doing online". [Cue: parents shifting uncomfortably in their seats] Yep, another thing to add to the daily 'to-do' list, then when not ticked, the 'bad-parent' list.  I have seen this advice repeated frequently in articles on internet safety and it is rarely elaborated on.  What does 'actively involved' mean?  As a parent, am I really supposed to know everything my child does on every game he plays -- every day? So should he stop and explain that the latest game update  means his avatar can now sit down on the beach and he can say "Woohoo!" in the Monkey Fist game? Are you kidding

As parents we're also advised to keep the computer in a public family area, to promote online transparency. I totally agree. But let's get real here; I'm racing around cooking dinner, feeding the cat, cleaning up and throwing another load in the washing machine.  I'm not standing behind my son watching, as he types cute and funny messages to his friends while we laugh at the computer screen together. Well actually I do do that.  But not as much as I'd like to.

The chances are that you're never going to keep up with every single thing your kids are doing online. So you don't have to feel guilty about that. Here are some realistic tips for non-geeky, time-pressured parents, who want to keep their kids safe online:

  • Make an agreement with them about their own internet safety rules, whereby use of the family or their own computer depends on these rules being followed.  Here is an excellent outline agreement from SafeKids.com.
  • Kids and tweens need to be on a safe, moderated social network site. This is a site where trained staff review every line of conversation, there are filters in place to prevent offensive language being used and there is a clear and transparent process for moderating behavior.  It's also recommended that parents choose a kids' site which has adult staff who chaperone in-world; sort-of like super-fun teachers on duty. Good kids' sites will have an easily-found page for parents which descibes their safety features
  • An excellent tool for parents is KidZui.com. This free software provides a safe web browser which you can download onto your computer, allowing your children access only to approved kids' games, social networks and resource sites. It's also quick and easy to install.
  • Ensure that when your child signs up to a virtual world or other social network site, they use your email address and you check out the site before approving their membership.  Kids are so savvy now that many have multiple email addresses and usernames on one social network site. By using your own email address it also means that any communications about issues from the staff of that site, come to you.
  • On a moderated kids' website, if you have a concern about any behavior or conversation that has occurred involving your child, don't be afraid to ask the community manager for a copy of the chat logs so you can view the conversation yourself.  Every good, safe site should have clear and easy access to staff who can help you. and be willing to share with you what their moderating process is.

Now that you've set your child up safely online, you can go back to racing around getting dinner ready. The great thing is that while the peas are cooking you can look over their shoulder and ask what on earth they mean as they're typing: "Yo, sup Bananatastic! Do your Go Rainbow xPower at Castle Beach on the Star Tiger server! Lol!"

June 30, 2011

MiniMonos Members Changing The World

From the beginning, MiniMonos was designed to have a purpose beyond profit. That purpose is to show unconditional love to children and the planet; to be a place that is fun first while embodying powerful core values; to be a virtual world that both affects and is affected by the physical one.

We'd like to give you an update on how well we're living up to that vision.

By way of context, MiniMonos has just passed 250,000 registered members! This is a huge milestone and we're honored and humbled by the kids who choose to play on our site.

Each of those 250,000 kids has helped change the world. Here's how:

Clean water for kids in India

Clean-water Every time someone buys a Gold membership or virtual good on MiniMonos, a child in India gets clean water through our partnership with Buy1Give1 and the Bird India charity. Our partnership with renewable power company Meridian Energy also provided a year of clean water for 20 kids! So far MiniMonos kids have helped provide 18,492 days of clean water to children in India.

Adopting Orangutans

Adopt-mimimomo-300w We adopted our first orangutan, Monti, to celebrate our first 50 Gold members, and our second, Kesi, when we reached 250. We welcomed Pingky and Neng to the MiniMonos Orangutan Family when we officially launched out of Beta. Our "adoptions" go to support the work of the extraordinary Orangutan Outreach organization.

But that's not all! Two of our extraordinary MiniMonos members, Viper and Calypso were so moved by the plight of the orangutans that they adopted their own orangutans! Last September they adopted Mimi and Momo, seen here. Viper and Calypso have been a part of the MiniMonos community since the beginning, and have shown themselves to be such incredible leaders that they have officially joined the staff!

Contributed to the WWF Tiger Initiative

Tigerbros-image Just because "MiniMonos" means "Little Monkeys" doesn't mean we only support primates! Another project we got behind was the WWF Tiger Initiative. We partnered with WWF-NZ to sell virtual tiger suits -- and every time a MiniMonos member buys a tiger suit for their online monkey to wear, a donation gets made to the WWF TX2 project to double the wild tiger population by 2022. 

MiniMonos EcoMonkeys completing real-world projects

EcoMonkeyLogo Of all the ways MiniMonos members have made the world a better place, the MiniMonos EcoMonkey program is probably the one we're most proud of -- because it's driven by the kids themselves, making an extraordinary difference, every day, in their own communities. 

The recently launched MiniMonos EcoMonkey program supports kids to tackle a real-world environmental project and earn virtual rewards on MiniMonos Island. They publish their ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos, explain why they chose their eco-project, and describe how they feel when they have completed it.

One determined US player, MiniJghRocks, campaigned to have a paper recycling program implemented at his school. Although his principals agreed, the superintendent reversed the decision, saying that similar programs in near-by schools had failed due to lack of support from the students. As MiniJghRocks explained: “Since it costs money to recycle (at least where I live) they decided it wasn’t worth the extra funds to put in something that wouldn’t be used. It makes sense right? Well, we then decided to start a petition, to prove that kids would actually use the recycling system!” The result was over 500 student signatures.

MiniJecoproject MiniJghRocks also enlisted the help of his math teacher to calculate that the amount of paper his school throws away, translated to 1,540 trees cut down per year. He wrote: “Next, we presented to our superintendent, showing him the facts, signatures, and a bit of the EcoMonkey Blog. He sat listening for a while, and [when] we finished, he, in response, also signed our petition!”

On successful implementation of the recycling program at his school, MiniJghRocks described it as: “Awesome! It’s soooo awesome. I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot and have truly changed the world, even if it’s just a little. I’m very happy. It’s just so cool :D” You can read all about MiniJghRocks' EcoMonkey Project here.

Other MiniMonos players have created eco-projects such as switching to eco-light bulbs, up-cycling old clothes to make toys, planting gardens, making useful items out of recycled materials and cleaning rivers and lakes. In all, 34 kids have completed eco-projects so far!

Our aim with the MiniMonos EcoMonkey program is simple: One million kids taking real-world eco-action as a result of playing on MiniMonos.

We're in awe of the way MiniMonos kids are making the world a better place every day, and we hope you are, too. Thanks for supporting us, and them, on this extraordinary journey!

August 26, 2010

Do you have time to keep your child safe online?

  Girl on computer
A couple of nights ago I went to a parent information evening at my son's school about internet safety.  I am in awe of the way his school handles issues in the playground -- it's obvious they've spent a lot of time and resources training their staff -- so I thought I could pick up some extra philosophical tips for our online moderation of MiniMonos.

The young groovy teacher, introduced as a "digital native", was no doubt a whizz on the computer. But I was surprised to find that her advice to parents about online safety was surface level at best, and while there was lively conversation about the issues parents face, there were few useful take-home solutions.

For one thing, we heard the standard: "Parents need to be actively involved in what their kids are doing online". [Cue: parents shifting uncomfortably in their seats] Yep, another thing to add to the daily 'to-do' list, then when not ticked, the 'bad-parent' list.  I have seen this advice repeated frequently in articles on internet safety and it is rarely elaborated on.  What does 'actively involved' mean?  As a parent, am I really supposed to know everything my child does on every game he plays -- every day? So should he stop and explain that the latest game update  means his avatar can now sit down on the beach and he can say "Woohoo!" in the Monkey Fist game? Are you kidding

As parents we're also advised to keep the computer in a public family area, to promote online transparency. I totally agree. But let's get real here; I'm racing around cooking dinner, feeding the cat, cleaning up and throwing another load in the washing machine.  I'm not standing behind my son watching, [Cue: Soft focus and violins] as he types cute and funny messages to his friends while we laugh at the computer screen together. Well actually I do do that.  But not as much as I'd like to.

The chances are that you're never going to keep up with every single thing your kids are doing online. So you don't have to feel guilty about that. Here are some realistic tips for non-geeky, time-pressured parents, who want to keep their kids safe online:

  • Make an agreement with them about their own internet safety rules, whereby use of the family or their own computer depends on these rules being followed.  Here is an excellent outline agreement from SafeKids.com.
  • Kids and tweens need to be on a safe, moderated social network site. This is a site where trained staff review every line of conversation, there are filters in place to prevent offensive language being used and there is a clear and transparent process for moderating behavior.  It's also recommended that parents choose a kids' site which has adult staff who chaperone in-world; sort-of like super-fun teachers on duty. Good kids' sites will have an easily-found page for parents which descibes their safety features
  • An excellent tool for parents is KidZui.com. This free software provides a safe web browser which you can download onto your computer, allowing your children access only to approved kids' games, social networks and resource sites. It's also quick and easy to install.
  • Ensure that when your child signs up to a virtual world or other social network site, they use your email address and you check out the site before approving their membership.  Kids are so savvy now that many have multiple email addresses and usernames on one social network site. By using your own email address it also means that any communications about issues from the staff of that site, come to you.
  • On a moderated kids' website, if you have a concern about any behavior or conversation that has occurred involving your child, don't be afraid to ask the community manager for a copy of the chat logs so you can view the conversation yourself.  Every good, safe site should have clear and easy access to staff who can help you. and be willing to share with you what their moderating process is.

Now that you've set your child up safely online, you can go back to racing around getting dinner ready. The great thing is that while the peas are cooking you can look over their shoulder and ask what on earth they mean as they're typing: "Yo, sup Bananatastic! Do your Go Rainbow xPower at Castle Beach on the Star Tiger server! Lol!"

February 16, 2010

What do your kids really do on virtual worlds?

Kid on computer
Photo by GK Weir on Flickr

This month we've been astonished at the growth of the virtual world we're developing. Suddenly parents and kids have heard about MiniMonos and they're visiting in droves. We've been blown away by what these children are really like and what they do when they engage online.

Predictably, the first wave of kids coming to MiniMonos have been early adopters and are highly tech-savvy multi-taskers, mostly aged between 9 and 13.  Many of them are seasoned gamers, often on a number of mature virtual worlds. What surprised us, however, was just how heart-warmingly supportive and helpful they are to each other and to us.  Just last month, around 25 MiniMonos fan help-websites sprung up, created by kids, every one of them offering positive support to new players who are discovering MiniMonos for the first time. On MiniMonos Island, if any player asks a question, it is instantly answered by someone more experienced.  We have been inundated by players requesting to be virtual tour guides, ensuring that new players are welcomed while playing and chatting together.

There is plenty of parental worry about kids on computers being in danger of social isolation. Many articles advise parents to get their kids off keyboards so they can get 'real friends'.  As mother to an 8-year old, I've been very aware of this theory.  At MiniMonos we advocate a balanced lifestyle for kids -- we openly communicate our love for the environment and encourage the kids to interact with and look after the planet they live on.  But even the highly experienced gamer kids with multiple virtual world accounts have amazed us with their level of social competence.  They are articulate and outspoken. They are so polite it makes my mother-heart glow. They follow an ethical set of social rules. They want to know who we are and what we stand for   -- then they decide if we're good people and if they want to stick around.

These kids laugh a lot and love to have fun.  I spend much of my day writing Lol! and :-) to them with a big, silly grin on my face. I'm often giggling at my desk. Then suddenly they will say something beautiful or give one of the MiniMonos staff members an unexpected, stunning gift of art and we'll be so moved, we have tears in our eyes.

Yesterday, a group of children, as their monkey avatars, were chatting on the beach at MiniMonos when a new kid -- a nay-sayer -- turned up.  The new kid was walking around the beach saying: "This is boring." "I'm leaving." "This game is lame." "I'm leaving now". "I'm going."  He must have said it 20 times.  I was interested to see how the kids reacted.  A couple of them asked him why.  Others offered to help.  When he didn't explain but just kept repeating the same sentences, it was like an unspoken social rule was activated.  I observed, fascinated, as the kids just withdrew their attention from him and continued chatting and talking to each other.  They didn't move away from him.  They didn't say anything like: "Well why don't you just go then!"  They weren't negative towards him.  They just got busy chatting about other things and eventually the nay-sayer quietly went away.  Nobody commented when he left.

Researcher Mizuko Ito led a large study about young people's use of digital media, with 28 researchers and collaborators at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Berkeley. He says: "There are myths about kids spending time online -- that it is dangerous or making them lazy. But we found that spending time online is essential for young people to pick up the social and technical skills they need to be competent citizens in the digital age." Ito's findings showed that “most parents knew very little about what their kids did online, and struggled to give real guidance and help." 

We recommend that if your child spends time on virtual worlds, you check it out first, making sure that it encourages good values and is safe and appropriate for their age group. Check that it has 24-hour moderation, or a safe-chat filter.  Ask your child about the friends they chat to. Make sure they know how to communicate instantly to virtual world staff if there is a problem.  Allow them to show you how amazing they are online.  Prepare to be overwhelmed.

We expected that the process of building MiniMonos would be fun, exciting and challenging. We didn't expect our hearts to be constantly bursting.  We didn't expect the children to be so clever and creative. The MiniMonos team fire emails to each other several times a day with examples of cute, funny, amazing things these kids do and say.  We're always saying "Wow!  Aren't these guys INCREDIBLE!"

These kids I've described are the vast majority of the MiniMonos community so far, not the exception.  We're not so naive to think we won't have behavoural issues to deal with in the future; however, good safety standards and the ethical culture the pioneer kids continue to encourage mean that any problems are able to be dealt with quickly and effectively.

Parents -- thank you for allowing us meet your glorious children. Long may these amazing digital natives continue to teach, delight and inspire us all.





The MiniMonos story
Welcome to MiniMonos. We're delighted to meet you.
MiniMonos is a virtual world for children: a place of fun, beauty, discovery, generosity, sustainability and friendship.
We created MiniMonos so that children could have a place of their own, a place that allows them to explore and grow without constant pressure to buy stuff. We also wanted them to have a place that embodied core values like sustainability and generosity, without turning those values into a boring lecture.
But we know we can't build it by ourselves. So join us! Tell us what you need, what you like, and what you don't like. Tell us what makes you laugh and what makes you cry. Let's take this journey together -- and make MiniMonos a great place for our kids.
 
You are currently browsing the blog.minimonos.com weblog.
 
Advertisement
Search the MaxiMonos Grownups' blog!


MiniMonos is a proud member of the Buy1Give1 community. Every time you purchase a MiniMonos Gold membership, a child in India gets clean water.
join our mailing list
Want to know more about the people who started MiniMonos?

Click here to get to know us better!