Kids Online UnConference: Everyone Has An Agenda, Including YOU!

November 13, 2008: Be there for the Kids Online: Balancing Fun and Safety Unconference!

A few years back when I heard the geek/chic term “UnConference” I immediately thought it must be a “virtual” happening instead of a fly-in to reduce one’s carbon footprint. (shows you how I roll)

Then I shrugged, “maybe it’s an anti-conference” for people like me who hate meetings and just want to DO instead of MEET. (getting warmer…)

Ask Kaliya Hamlin of who has facilitated over 50 unconferences in the past 3 years and has a consulting practice in design and facilitation of these participatory learning spheres. She hosted She’s Geeky, which was MY first formal unconference experience (you’ll soon see why that’s a contradiction in terms). Kaliya has teamed with digital divas Joi Podgorny and Denise Tayloe, to host a breakthrough mind-meld of industry leaders and child advocates on Nov. 13 at the Computer History Museum, called “Kids Online Unconference: Balancing Safety and Fun.”

Up until now, everytime I’ve attended a cyber safety summit it invariably defaults to whoever has the biggest microphone or moneypot to drive the agenda…I like this idea of ditching the agenda altogether to work on behalf of the kids, and include youth themselves in this vital conversation!

Seems there’s always been an ‘either/or’ polarity ranging from heavy handed law enforcement ‘lookie what we found’ fright night scenarios to laissez-faire free speech/free access gaming gurus in ‘no worries, it’s all good fun’ mode.

Toss in the legal beagles on wired safety from privacy to piracy, add a dash of digital data-mining and marketing ethics (or lack thereof) and you’ve got a wild and woolly moshpit of vested interests and VERY big agendas!

This Kids Online Unconference makes sound, reasoned sense to me, for creating safe measures and web wise kids.

It’s a noble attempt to achieve clear thinking on muddy, complicated issues coming from people with multiple agendas…and to then synthesize that learning into next steps and actions.

They aim to level the internet safety playing field by tossing all kinds of thought leaders together in an open space sphere to hammer out some best practices. That’s the very definition of an unconference…Bravo!

I mean, sure, there are some very real holes in the digital fence that need calking, from chat moderation and mobile social GPS quandaries to cyberbullying tactics and the boldness of anonymity…but if we all work together and sand off the surface layer rather than just slap a new coat of paint on to make things look good, then maybe we’ll get somewhere. (Paint peels, especially when it’s not primed, ya know?)

Here are just a few thoughts they’ve already posed for the Kids Online Unconference to get us started and open up thinking into larger framed, productive discourse:

·    Who and what are we trying to protect digital kids from?

·    Are there standards and norms in practice we can leverage to formalize for industry?

·    How can we create cyber-spaces that balance interesting and fun with safety?

·    What is the role of government in either defining or supporting best practices?

·    How do we create best practices that are flexible based on age range, content and willingness for parental involvement by industry or the child?

·    Kids fake their ages to gain access to online content, do we as an industry care? If so, then…? Let’s add other ideas, issues, concepts that you think are important in this area…

Kaliya Hamlin (aka Identity Woman, producer of the bi-annual Internet Identity Workshop (IIW) and unconference queen) no doubt had a role in editing the Wikipedia entry which captures the essence of the definition, and spirit of the event itself:

“An unconference is a facilitated, participant-driven conference centered around a theme or purpose. The term “unconference” has been applied, or self-applied, to a wide range of gatherings that try to avoid one or more aspects of a conventional conference, such as high fees and sponsored presentations.” –Wikipedia

That last marker is pivotal to me, because “money talks.”

Anytime you attract speakers beholden to their own agenda, lashed together with financial ties that bind, objectivity and creative problem-solving goes out the window.

I’d MUCH prefer an unconference hybrid of sorts, where you don’t have to engage in a “pay to play” large scale litmus test that eliminates most of the nonprofit entities like me right off the bat.

Seriously…Just look at these two ‘traditional’ digital conferences coming up next week Oct. 22 and 23! Who can afford these crazy four-figure entry fees?

There’s the M2M (Marketing to Moms) conference in Chicago which should give a glimpse of how there’s one hand on our pocketbooks at all times, as evidenced by sessions like “Maximize your Revenue Pool by Reaching the Largest Untapped Market in the Country (Marketing to Moms in the Disability Community”

Um, is it me? Or is that opportunistic hijinks a bit offensive and crass? When I looked for the speaker presenting, it’s someone from Sephora…yah, gee, let’s leverage the makeup to burn victims as an opportunity buy, sigh…Cost for that M2M marketing event? $1895 per registration for ‘research, general sessions, workshops, clinics, continental breakfasts, keynotes, luncheons, etc.’ (Such a ‘bawgin,’ eh?) Seems to be the going rate, as other events like KidPower, ‘What Teens Want’ and other industry sponsored bigwig shindigs are similarly priced…

Then there’s the conference I AM thrilled to be attending, which is the Health 2.0 digital pow-wow on the same days (only due to a press pass that passed muster, whew).

But get this…if I’d had to pay, I could never make it as I don’t have $1800 bucks layin’ around to stay on the cutting edge of kids’ health! Oh, wait…there’s more!

Health 2.0 is already SOLD OUT and now adding an OVERFLOW room with a minimal discount for speaker access via media screen for the ‘discounted price’ of $1599! Yowza. That’s more than some of my mini-grants!

Don’t these people know we’re in a recession? egad. I profusely thank Shaping Youth’s blog readers who pinged me with leads to file for a press pass. (and thank conference chair Matt Holt for granting one)

But you see my point, yes?

An “unconference” is the lean-n-mean equivalent of the front line do-ers and leaders in the mover and shaker realm, vs. the multi-layered tier of mega-mogul representatives.

If only the corporate biggies are putting players onto the game board, then we’re ALL missing out on opportunities to align and work together not just for children’s health and well-being but for UNIVERSAL conundrums that apply to us all when it comes to privacy, internet safety, or digital and physical best practices.

I’d love to see Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy join this unconference dialog along with Kathryn Montgomery author of Generation Digital and American University’s Center for Social Media.

I’d hope research leaders from the Kaiser Family Foundation, Pew Internet Research and other policy and advocacy cyber safety summit groups would add some pro and con balances into the digital mix, especially since Jeff Chester was instrumental in creating COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) from the get go!

In the case of the Nov. 13 Kids Online: Balancing Health and Safety unconference, the cohosts themselves are worthy of a full day platform, as they’ve been heavily involved with kids on the frontlines of the digital sphere from an industry perspective and they know where the holes are…and could be invaluable to help us all plug them.

For example, unconference co-host Denise Tayloe is the co—founder of Privo, a recognized authority in permission and identity management which helps put preferences and privacy issues back in the hands of consumers. She speaks on the subject of children’s privacy issues across the globe, and helping companies understand COPPA compliance and the need for same.

She’s joined by Joi Podgorny as co-host, who has spent the past decade championing and seamlessly implementing COPPA into interactive/online communities to keep kids safe while still having fun. These two people ALONE I’d come to a one-day conference to hear if they were the only ones there in an echo chamber, as they know ‘who’s doing it right’ who’s not.

That’s gold for child advocacy people like me who strongly feel there IS a way to balance fun and safety without all the hoo-ha and dare-to-scare tactics that have some parents shutting out the digital space altogether…

Because as I always say, if you shut out kids in ‘forbidden fruit’ mode, it’ll squish out sideways in a different behavior, location, or media choice.

I personally consider some of the global interactive digital tools, e-learning, virtual worlds, edu-sims and social media outreach FAR preferable to the one-way zone out and passivity of TV.

Especially when the ‘relax, unwind, watch a show’ concept is now peppered with gossipy soap-style dramas laden with ‘mean-girl-isms’ and embedding normative cues coming from shows like Secret Life of the American Teen’s peer to peer casual sex fest on ABC Family. No thanks, folks, don’t need that lobbed into my life.

The internet has the ability to connect rather than isolate our worldviews and global understanding of kids AND media providing we can ‘balance safety and fun.’

So who comes to unconference events like this on Nov. 13?

Here’s their blurb on the community they hope to gather, which sure sounds good to me.

I registered the day it went live. You can too…it’s only a month out, so come add your voice and vision!!

Kids Online Unconference: Balancing Safety and Fun: Nov. 13, 2008

·    The community we hope to gather includes:
·    Online Community/Virtual World Managers
·    Policy officers and Security Officers at large companies
·    Consultants in the kids online space
·    Identity technologists
·    State Attorney Generals
·    Legislative Staffers
·    Parents and Kids
·    Academics in the field
·    Bloggers

“The format we use means the agenda is created the day it happens. It is about getting things done and figuring out the tough problems. There is no committee deciding who does or does not get to ‘present’. Instead, Open Space is about breaking up into groups, working through issues, figuring out best practices and building consensus.

Anyone is welcome to create a session on a topic they find relevant to data sharing. The agenda for these sessions will be created on the first day of each event.”

You can count on me doing ‘all of the above’ in this roll up the sleeves work session…

If I could ADD to this dream team of co-hosts for Kids Online: Balancing Safety and Fun?

I’d say that aside from local folks like Common Sense Media, danah boyd out of Berkeley, Michael Carter of Zookazoo, Debbie Heimowitz of Adina’s Deck, (who, btw, happens to be having their world premiere of two new internet films next week, story to come, details here!) Scott Arpajian of Dizzywood, Larry Magid of CBS, Anastasia Goodstein of, and such, I’d hope to see some inbound folks step off a plane at SFO…Like?

The scholarly HASTAC and MacArthur Foundation humanities fellows…

The ever wise and reasoned Anne Collier of and Net Family News, Barry Joseph of Global Kids and Teen Second Life on building safe community and vision, the smart readers and educators on Shaping Youth like Sandra Foyt, On Living By Learning, Liam O’Donnell and Robyn McMaster of Brain Based Biz …

I’d put in a pitch for Corporate Babysitter’s Lisa Ray to fly in from Minnesota on behalf of Parents for Ethical Marketing to join me in concerns about commercial infiltration…and Joe Kelly and Nancy Gruver (New Moon from the Minnesota Media environs too…

I’d hope Izzy Neis could break away from Six Degrees Games for a nanosecond along with Metaverse Mod Squad to add their kids’ expertise in online community-building in terms of solidifying smart practices in quality moderation pertaining to live chat…

And I’d love to finally meet Liz and Craig Kronenberger of the amazing Elf Island “Gaming for Good” start-up that’s launching by year’s end to see how you CAN integrate safety, play, and doing good things on and offline in participatory learning that benefits ALL.

Finally, I’ll add that you have a FREE place to stay with me right here on the water, on the peninsula, sans need for a hotel. The unconference format is a screamin’ deal of affordability as it is…So time is the only holdback. Thankfully, they’ve even mashed THAT into ONE day…Makes it doable, yes?

Let me know how many beds to make up…Plenty of room. Dead serious here, folks.

I’ll even host dinner sessions to keep the conversations going…AND be your airport transport.

Balancing fun and safety for kids online is important work…

Someone’s gotta do it. I want it to be all of us! ๐Ÿ™‚

What: Kids Online: Balancing Safety & Fun

An Unconference About the Issues & Best Practices

When: November 13, 2008

Computer History Museum
1401 N Shoreline Blvd.
Mountain View, CA 94043


Early Bird     by Oct. 24, 2008     $95.00

Regular by Oct 31, 2008                   $125.00

Kids (10-25) by Nov 12, 2008         $  50.00

Sponsorships are still available. Please contact any of the event coordinators if interested.

Visual credit of Internet Safety graphic: HIT: Hokanson’s Instructional Technology



  1. First of all, I just have to say that you run a first class blog over here Amy – the amount of great information is just what this health 2.0 person loves to see! I cannot WAIT to see you at the conference this week. Lots of things to catch up on!! I will be at the conference taking photos and doing video interviews with my Flip camera so you know I will be tracking you down for some coverage!

  2. Well, Andre, first thing you’ll find is I’m camera shy!

    Cool that you’re using the Flip…maybe I’ll bring mine and we can have dual vlogging!

    We use the ‘Flip-n-Blip’ to show kids how fast they can record and then post to Blip.TV which is both a lesson in technology AND cyber safety, to prove that almost ANYthing can post pronto so kids need to be aware of their pals and antics… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Anxious to catch up indeed…especially on the Virtual Nutrition project to get some feedback from you finally! See you soon…exciting to see all the new health content kicking in…Absolutely plan on being at the Gaming4Health session on Thursday for certain…see you then, in case we don’t cross paths prior! Looking forward!

  3. I would love to be a part of a reasoned discussion, especially if we could include the voices of some of the kids who are online. Alas, I’ll be heading to Florida, instead.

    Please keep us posted on conference highlights.

  4. Don’t think I wouldn’t love to be there — and with the snow today you can be sure of that — but with travel it’s all still out of PEM’s price range right now. Thanks for the personal invite to your pad!

  5. Snow day? Yowza. And we’re in a heat wave pushin’ 87 today! Whoever doesn’t buy off on climate change and eco issues is not payin’ attention!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Dead serious about the open invite for staying in the Bay Area anytime. Conference or not…And know what you mean on the price range issues for travel; I’m lucky to be ‘local’ for so much good stuff here in the Silicon Valley, thankfully, or I’d never have access.

    Keep me apprised on MN doings though, as your state seems to be a leader in parent education on a variety of these media/kids topics!!

  6. Is there an archive of the conference events available anywhere? I’d love to see what you came up with at the “uconference”.

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