Monday, 16 May 2011

Social Networking for Children

Recently we have been looking at social networking, mainly in the context of cybersafety for children and professionalism for adults. While we hear a lot about the associated risks, social networking is a fantastic tool to make connections that can foster cooperative learning. The video below gives a great overview of social networking.

I was fascinated to learn that 51% of 8-11 year olds are engaged in online social networking (ACMA, 2009); however based on my prac experiences, I estimate this could be higher in certain demographic schools, as nearly every child in my class participated in Club Penguin. In order to stay up to date with the latest craze, I decided to investgate Club Pengiun and how this popular social network could be incorporated into education.

What is Club Penguin? 
Club Penguin is a virtual world for 6-14 year olds, where children control avatar penguin characters that can interact with one another. Children can chat with each other, participate in a range of games and activities, look after virtual pets and participate in Club Penguin parties, events and plays and much more. Club Penguin offers two levels of security, one where children can only use and recieve a series of pre-defined questions, answers and greetings, the other uses a filter that limits exchange of personal information and inappropriate content. In addition, parents can control the amount of time children spend on Club Penguin, with parent controlled timers that allow the website to enforce daily limits.

How can this be used in education?
The Club Penguin website describes multiple benefits of their social network, including;
  • Development of keyboard skills.
  • Creativity through role play. 
  • Math and money management skills.
  • Social skills.
  • Learning about participation in a community.
I believe this list is quite limited regarding the literacy learning that may occur through participation in Club Penguin, including skills in reading, writing, viewing and communication. In addition, children are being exposed to social networking from a young age, meaning they begin their cybercitizen development journey early on. As a teacher, Club Penguin has the potential to be used as a platform for social constructivist learning. Teachers could encourage their students to use Club Penguin as a forum to discuss homework, or set topics for discussion where students present their conclusions to the class the following day. For students with limited internet access at home, they could be allocated time before class where they can use the internet to participate in any online social activities.

Club Penguin is by no means the only children's social network that could be incorporated into teaching, see Sarah Kesslers article on children's social networks for further suggestions.

Australian Communications and Media Authority (2009). Click and Connect: Young Australians us of Online Social Media 02: Quantitative Research Report.


  1. This is a really informative mini-case study of Club Penguin. I agree with you that the list of literacies and skills developed by children participating in the site should be expanded to encompass those you've mentioned.

  2. Thanks Mark! Now next time my students start talking to me about Club Penguin they will be impressed by how up to date and hip I am!

  3. Wow, Liz.. That is indeed a very detailed summary of Club Penguin! Thank you for that!

    This is the first time I'm hearing about this virtual world and decided to explore the site. I must agree with you, the site is a good platform for teachers to encourage students to work collaboratively to discuss projects and such. Also, the virtual pet would be a good tool to teach values such as responsibility and compassion.

    It's definitely a resource I would use on ATP (if the children don't already use it)

  4. Great idea with the virtual pet Rosh!