Shaping Youth At Ypulse 2009: Send In Your Priorities

2009-mashup-codeMay 1, 2009 Much like the scene in the new Disneynature Earth documentary where the lions and the elephants are drinking from the same watering hole, Shaping Youth has been invited to share space among the über-marketers at the YPulse Mashup June 1 and 2 as well as the Tweens Online (Un)Conference taking place the day prior.

Attending as ‘press’ sends a positive sign that little guys like me who can’t do the ‘pay for play’ bit (even WITH the discounted academic/nonprofit fees) are still being considered worthy of inclusion, despite unabashed candor and stubborn conviction to report authentically and cry foul from the rooftops as necessary.

So browse the Ypulse agenda, speaker line-up and advisors, and key topics. Then give me your feedback as to ‘where I should focus the most attention’ for this readership in kids’ health and well-being?

You now have a ‘fly on the wall’ with vested interests wide out in the open, so consider me your personal ‘scout’…Better yet, take advantage of the Ypulse ‘stimulus discount’ for Shaping Youth readers and come join me!

What do YOU want me to cover the most? Speak up! There’s so much content in the ‘Totally Wired’ world of youth media/marketing…

totally-wired.jpgShould I focus on:

Social media, agents of change and youth activism?

Commercialism and parental concerns?

Twitter as a school tool? Eco-hope and green teens?

Surveillance  and monitoring of kids’ online?

Mobile phones and e-havioral data profiling? Informal e-learning in virtual worlds?

Internet safety, chat rooms, and live moderation of new kids’ communities? Trend-tracking what’s next in new offerings? Student stress, depression or anxiety?

Music and youth alternative orgs like they had last year with the Hip Hop Chess Federation or 826 Valencia’s writing skills programs? techno-literacy for student sex ed? (I still have several Health 2.0 stories forthcoming from the ISIS public health conference)


Be assured, a gratis press pass is certainly not a waiver of objectivity or quid pro quo ‘softball questions’ sans circumspect analysis from yours truly.

Editor-in-Chief Anastasia Goodstein knows that, as I’ve made it crystal clear and reflected it in my writing time and again…

It also does not REMOTELY apply to the disconcerting WSJ coverage which has raised my own eyebrows concerning ‘paid to pitch’ sites that resist disclosure of ties, paid or otherwise. I’m a firm believer in full transparency to reveal exactly where one stands in the media mix and the money machine.

The WSJ ‘bloggers for hire’ controversy seems akin to moral bankruptcy, though maybe it’s like those perk/review sites where people get freebies to test out sans promises of coverage. I dunno, seems like mercenary media to me, but then I’m overly cautious (and always broke) because I choose to steer clear of any whiff of conflict of interest.

lionsI respect Ypulse for acknowledging that I’m a ‘fragile ally’ as Disneynature called the elephant and lion relationship sharing the same natural resources and inviting me anyway.

Truth is, I genuinely DO want to peacefully co-exist and even bridge the gap to support and align with media/marketing efforts making a positive influence in the youth sphere (e.g. Ashoka/Youth Noise w/Nike’s GameChangers, etc.) and I make no bones about that.

However, it’s also VERY common knowledge that I’m an avid supporter of Parents for Ethical Marketing, our advisory board members at Packaging Girlhood (and coming this fall, the companion book on Packaging Boyhood, which is equally disconcerting). And, perhaps most of all…I’m a proud, active member of the 30K+ CCFC advocacy group.

I consider myself honored to team with ‘industry nemesis’ Susan Linn whose fabulous work has held corporations’ feet to the fire for accountability in their messaging and how it’s landing on kids.


At first glance that might appear discordant with Ypulse (and the very name of CCFC is indicative of a separate ethic, if you look at our two taglines) but I do NOT see the two orgs as mutually exclusive whatsoever.

Shaping Youth represents a strong ‘middle ground voice’ and an opportunity to open dialog.

So while both CCFC and Ypulse may represent opposite ends of a swinging metronome, Shaping Youth is more like the moving arm of the device itself…In constant motion based on the assessment of the content itself…

I’m definitely in a centrist camp of demanding accountability and alteration of the media and marketing clout to shift toward a healthier worldview for kids.

Our entire mission is to change the channel of influence in a more positive, productive direction…so yes, I DO swing back and forth based on what’s being put out there.

dorothyAs for Shaping Youth’s community itself, we tend to attract an audience that’s ‘all over the board’ from ‘starving students,’ techno-whizzes, and talented young people to corporate do-gooders, daddy bloggers and anti-racist parents, gamers, activists, kids health practitioners, academics, industry ethicists, imoms, foundation folks,  girls empowerment sites and conscientious observers with a vested interest in children, like Dorothy from Grammology. (that’s Dorothy’s self-portrait at left; yep, she’s one hip grandma of seven!)

So you can see why I need your help to ‘show and tell’ properly and prioritize to meet the needs of a wide range of readers.

As it is, Ypulse mashups are a bit overwhelming for me to take in all the info like a sponge and spew it back without knee-jerk reaction…and instead ‘hold’ (as they say in somatics) and process with reasoned analysis.

dareThis year Ypulse is showing DARE fresh from  Sundance Film Festival acclaim and I’m intrigued to see it…and hear the Q&A with the director/writer thereafter…

There’ll be a 2009 reprise of the “User-Generated Lunch Discussions” (which I found amazingly helpful last year, teaming up with Hope to hear about health 2.0 innovations, exergaming, and their award-winning ReMission youth cancer endeavors) …Plus Ypulse once again presents their Totally Wired Teacher Award honoring a public school teacher who is successfully using technology in the classroom…Great stuff on the education and learning front…

american-teen-postersI have to sheepishly admit that I still have write-ups from  2008’s Ypulse Mashup in the hopper unfinished…there was so much going on!

I still have posts about 100 Young Americans and several ‘Teen Reads with a Twist’ from Zest books for poolside perusal (no Odyssey or Iliad mind you, but some humorous appeal that our teen advisors enjoyed for tapping into kidspeak with authenticity). Moreover, I did a LENGTHY article onthe documentary American Teen which I absolutely loved, and never got around to posting properly.

I’m STILL frustrated that American Teen (interview here) didn’t get a wider theatrical release and am determined to promote it any way I can when the DVD comes out soon. (note the riff on 80s brat pack hit Breakfast Club above) I’m planning on adding American Teen to Shaping Youth’s film fest for parent/youth education, just like the America the Beautiful documentary DVD which will be ready by fall.

Meanwhile, here’s the scoop on the upcoming Ypulse Mashup slated for June 1 and 2, (which sounds far off but is one month away) along with a prequel event the day prior, concerning a much needed hot topic:


May 31: Prequel

‘Tweens: Balancing Safety & Fun’ is similar to the Kids Online session which I wrote about here, when attending with houseguest/gal pal Nancy Gruver of and New Moon Girl Media. We enjoyed the company of safety heroes Anne Collier of NetFamily News and Connect Safely and moderation and ‘safe-chat’ kids’ community queen Izzy Neis among others…

I’ve sporadically been a part of the Kids Online working group and admire the genuine resolve of Izzy and Joi’s efforts to form Wikis and podcasts for ‘best practices’ sharing info with those working in the “under 13″ digital space. (you can be a part of the useful list serve here and weigh in)

privoPrivo was a lead sponsor of the “Unconference” with Kaliya Hamlin that I attended prior and found worthwhile…

It was rife with industry marketers, yet a welcome place to sound off on my views about what’s ‘not okay’ and ‘off limits’ in terms of the digital sphere going after ‘tween’ mindshare…Privo is the lead sponsor once again, with the Sunday afternoon May 31st roll up the sleeves session to discuss the issues that matter most.

I’m a bit of a thorn in the side of the issues being addressed, but feel these are all questions that need to be asked and voices that need to be heard.

Actually, working backwards TOWARD the Ypulse summit, starting with new events coming up that both businesses and nonprofits should know about sooner rather than later, here’s the slate from Ypulse partner groups:

May 5 in Stanford, CA: Gravity Summit for a day of learning about using blogs, wikis, podcasts, Facebook, Twitter, online video and social networks for business. May 13 in the Bay Area: SDForum‘s annual Teens in Tech event. May 31 at the Hotel Nikko San Francisco: Create your Twitter business strategy at TWTRCON SF 09, the first conference entirely focused on Twitter as a business platform.”

May 31: Sunday: Balancing Safety and Fun

Kids and Tweens Online

As with any “unconference” it will be the attendees who get to set the agenda…The folks from Privo will present what comes out of this working session at the main event June 1 and 2. (If you register for the unconference + the Mashup, it’s $100. If you just want to attend the unconference, it’s $150. Not sure how it all plays into the 10% discount for S.Y. but my guess it’s universally applicable)

June 1 & 2:

Representing the tween space at the Ypulse main event:

“Keynote case study from Paul Yanover, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, Disney Online; Kelly Hugunin, Executive Director, Marketing, Walt Disney Records; and Jason Davis, Vice President, focusing on user generated content and their U Rock The Summer Campaign. Daniel Neal, CEO of the tween mobile company kajeet, will also be joining our mobile panel.”

My brain is already percolating questions…

Please share your own!

The Ypulse Youth Marketing Mashup is geared to a wide array of youth…specifically, they figure, aged “8-24 or tweens, teens and early twentysomethings.” They admit it’s “a big range, and a lot to cover in one conference.” I was gonna say a lot of purchase power and influence peddling, but hey…you say tomato I say tomatoh, hmn? First, the YPulse Monday morning game plan starts with a choice of three pre-conferences…

Help me out, folks…how can I be three places at once?

Should I attend:

Urban and Multicultural Mashup featuring trend presentations, panels on mobile opportunities, partnering with non-profits and marketing to youth in the “Age of Obama.”

Campus Case Study Slam for back-to-back case studies from marketers trying to reach the campus demographic, including MySpace Records, Levi Strauss, Disney-ABC and MTV360.

Youth Marketing Boot Camp, led by the author of the acclaimed gTrend Report, will be a research-rich deep-dive into what youth marketers need to know.

Ah, decisions, decisions.

June 1 & 2: At the main conference I need a clone, because I can already feel the info-overload setting in:

“Keynotes: Don Tapscott, business strategist and author of Grown Up Digital; Josh Shipp, the renowned “advice slinger” who channeled a unique talent for empowering young people into; Greg Clayman of MTV Networks; and Donna Fenn, who has been interviewing young entrepreneurs for her new book, Upstarts!”

Ypulse is once again showcasing TWO youth panels…

Which frankly has traditionally jolted the c*** out of me, because I feel like kids are becoming commodified as ‘market segments’ selling their souls and their psyches for ‘research’ like lab rats…

I understand how marketers salivate at this stuff, and therefore understand the desire to put them on stage to ‘pick their brains,’ though there’s a distasteful carnie-crowd element to it that I have yet to come to terms with, sorry…

teens-in-tech-09The sell is to “Learn what brand campaigns resonate from young people ages 13 to 24, and ask for feedback on your own campaign! Hear Guy Kawasaki as he engages an inspiring group of “totally wired” young entrepreneurs.”

Actually, I learned much of what resonates via the entrepreneurial whiz kids at the Teens in Tech conference but the ‘feedback on your own campaign’ line above feels like free labor/kids’ exploitation of opportunity to me…(well, maybe “cheap labor” since youth are no doubt given a stipend to stump and reveal)

Which brings me to another hot button query:

Why is it that focus groups and any commercial research arms can pay, recruit, research their socks off with kids, whereas academics and scholarly nonprofit endeavors are subjected to IRB (Indep. Review Board) compliance to become sanctioned with ‘test subject’ acumen and NIH/NSF sanctions? All this to research a simple pilot for positivity?

Why do I have to jump through IRB hoops when commercial researchers get a hallpass?

tumbleweedThis question came up at the Consuming Kids Bay Area premiere at Cal last week…Seems silly for  Shaping Youth to have permission slips up the wazoo just to test learning retention in virtual worlds…Whereas dollar-driven advertising and marketing pros in the commercial realm have carte blanche to ask what they wish, glean what they want, and run outta town leaving kids like tumbleweeds in a wild west frontier?

It’s like a posse rounding up and capturing data then moseying along to the next range with no sheriff in town.

Makes no sense to me!

sheriffI’m told it has to do with funding sources, getting ‘published’ in ‘academic, medical, and scientific journals’ and all the mucky muck authoritative outcomes to have the research quantifiable and trackable…

But what does that say about the far more profitable research end of the commercial spectrum, where data is bought and sold to anyone with an open wallet? Much less about the fact that there’s no ‘sheriff’ around when marketers tack up a “Help Wanted” sign like bounty hunters willing to pay for brains and mindshare.

Not quite a level playing field, ya know?

All the more reason to take EVERY scrap of data (statistics, opinion, research figures and projections) with a keen whiffer trailing the money source of who’s behind the project and why.

Circumspect analysis extends to nonprofit motivations as well…

elf-island-logoAgain, I’ve revealed that I’m notably excited about testing a pilot program inside the amazingly positive virtual world, Elf Island soon, to see whether a 3D world is a more viable platform for scaling some concepts rather than a ‘train the trainer’ hands-on digital download format for some of our media games and life skills enrichment.

What’s ‘in it for me’ since no money is exchanging hands?

Seeing if outcomes will ‘stick’ in a rich, 3D virtual environment and what the learning curve will be compared to a simpler ‘hands-on’ game deployed in open source form to any youth group.

What’s a red flag for YOU?

The fact that I’ve consistently voiced time and time again that I’m a diehard Elf Island fan using phrases like “amazingly positive” to describe their virtual world…(doesn’t mean our S.Y. research will ‘work’ or ‘test well’ but it does mean that I’m pre-disposed to giving it a go in the hopes of scaling messages that ‘stick’ faster!

I’m impressed that Elf Island keeps partnering with new good causes in playful ways and I think that bodes well for engaging kids with learning and philanthropy as a ‘twofer.’ (yes, I’ve expressed the same about Global Kids, Dizzywood, Zookazoo, etc.)

Anyway, I digress…I’ll fill you in on our Elf Island pilot soon…back to Ypulse (if they don’t revoke my press pass with regrets) This is getting too long as usual, so I’ll just put in a plea:

Send me your thoughts, concerns, hot buttons, and ‘must sees’ at Ypulse for coverage on Shaping Youth…

“Speakers and panelists from companies and organizations immersed in the youth marketing space include:

Nike • AddictingGames • Ashoka • Best Buy • Context Optional • Culture of Future • Disney Online • The Intelligence Group • Kajeet • Loopt • LG Mobile • Meebo • Minyanville • MocoSpace • mtvU • myYearbook • Nokia • Partnership for a Drug-Free America • SmartyPig • Stardoll • Undercurrent • Walt Disney Records • SurveyU • Fuse • Premise • Privo • C&R Research • and more.”

I’ll be your ‘virtual’ eyes and ears…

Also, please send me your picks on who I should try to preslate an interview with…either before, during, or after the Ypulse ‘Mashup’…Again, the agenda is here, and the offer to join me still stands…

We can sure use more of our voices in the mix as agents of change advocating for kids’ health and well-being.

tiger Speaking of lions and tigers:

…I’ve got an in-depth e-interview with the head of the pride, Susan Linn from CCFC coming your way about some of this soon.

I’ve asked her specifics on how we can all peacefully coexist in the media and marketing jungle, and about ethical issues and best practices that marketers might heed to ‘play in the same watering hole.’

My guess is she’ll explain her view of the lion’s den quite differently than mine…and that she’ll rightfully remind that cheetahs aren’t likely to change their spots. I don’t know…maybe not. We’ll see what she says…

Meanwhile, I’ll stick to broad daylight (and full disclosure) and keep a watchful eye at the Ypulse watering hole.

Hope to see you there! Roarin’…



  1. I will also be attending the conference as “press”. I hope to meet you there. It should be a great conference.

  2. Fabulous, Jennifer…I’ve been wanting to meet you, so this is perfect! Let’s plan on collaborating a bit…Will you be there on Sunday too?

  3. Well, as long as you’re offering to be my personal scout…

    I’d love to find out what’s being done to promote youth activism, and whether that’s having a positive effect, or backfiring as kids are overwhelmed with too much information and too many causes. In a recent visit to Maryland, I discovered that in some school districts there are rigorous service learning requirements that some parents argue kills real youth activism. Online, it seems that there is a proliferation of opportunities to do something, but I wonder if that’s motivating kids to discover what’s important to them, or not.

    Also, you got me going wondering how/if boys are discovering media literacy. Seems like all the programs I’m finding are geared to girls (esp. re: body image.)

    I’m very curious about best practices of kids collaborating online. Every day I hear amazing tales from my son’s journeys into the world of Roblox, and I wonder what’s OK, and what’s not. What does monitored virtual world really mean, after all?

    I’ve got more questions, but I look forward to being amazed by all the new material that you’ll share on topics that I haven’t even considered!

  4. Oh, Sandra, I’m SO glad you weighed in with these thoughtful and smart questions.

    I’ve wondered similar things on the youth service side, as interns when solicited rarely work out; their heart’s just not in it when they’re ‘doing it for the school credit’(vs. kids that enthusiastically approach me, and even then, as you say, they’re overbooked, so it leads to lackluster or half-baked engagement.

    Haven’t quite figured out the right approach there…as it’s a passionista business, so youth media zeal has to come from an authentic place (it’s not a good ‘fake it’ factor)

    I’ve always felt philanthropy and public service that’s a ‘going through the motions’ exercise CAN be damaging on all ends…I’ll never forget a scout troop experience to a senior home where some of the girls were actually AFRAID of the frail elderly folks which in turn made them feel a bit awkward and ‘freak-show/monster-ish’ so again; the adults need to help the fit with younger ones particularly if they’re going to expose kids to environs that could elicit a ‘non-helpful’ response…

    The boys’ media literacy has taken some body image forms too, particularly Jackson Katz work at the Media Education Foundation, (his films like “Tough Guise” and “Wrestling with Manhood” are noteworthy and he’s got a new book called “The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women & How All Men Can Help”

    Children Now has a good 16 pg. pdf that’s worth a media literacy read re: messages about masculinity: boys/sports, etc.

    And there are several other worthy mentoring youth sites I have my eye on like and Joe Hungler’s work at the Boys & Girls Clubs…I’ll be doing an interview with the ‘Packaging Boyhood’ dynamic duo soon since they’ll start their book promo in late summer and I want to get the jump on it…

    And as far as kids collaborating online, I HIGHLY recommend you join our list serve on the ‘balancing safety and fun’ topic, as it’s jam-packed with moderators, live chat safety experts and online community gurus who can give you the scoop on what to watch for, who’s ‘doing it right’ etc.

    In fact, thinking about your son, there’s a new one coming up this summer he might like that moderator folks at Metaverse ModSquad just announced called “Webosaurs” which will be a virtual world that’s ‘dino-centric’ which could pile on some learning fun…We’ll see…Here’s the release on same.

    Sandra, PLEASE do me a favor and ‘Tweet’ this request for feedback on topic prioritization, as I think our mutual audiences will give me the direction I need to glean a much better perspective from the Ypulse crowd.

    Smart questions lead to smart answers…which is why I chose to ping Susan Linn in advance on some of these ‘life in the media jungle’ queries as they pertain to “Consuming Kids.”


  5. I am a children’s author with a new website for kids called MEET ME AT THE CORNER (, a series of free kid-friendly video podcasts for kids.

    Geared to children ages 7-12, is a dynamic, interactive site, which encourages individual expression and participation through video submissions from children worldwide. Through these video pod casts, the site creates a community of children who learn the art of self-expression and storytelling through video. The site is free of charge. currently offers more than 40 three- to four- minute episodes. Recent additions include interviews with famous artists and writers, trips to a variety of New York City historic and cultural landmarks, and introductions to unusual hobbies. New trips are added every three weeks.

    I thought your readers might enjoy the current episode featuring the winners of this year’s PAWS FOR POETRY Contest 2009. Children were asked to write a poem about their pet. We recieved over 1200 entries from children in 34 states. Other recent episodes include a trip to Palomar Observatory in San Diego and to the the Money Museum in Colorado and a visit with
    New York pop-book artist, Robert Sabuda.

    Would you review our site and pass t on to your readers?

    Thank you,

    Donna Guthrie

  6. What a great experience! Your posts are always filled with great information, so I think YPulse is the lucky one in this case. =)

    As for what to focus on: I like the topics of “Social media, agents of change and youth activism” and/or “Mobile phones and e-havioral” …I’m like seeing the connection to behavior, both good and bad. And based on my knowledge of the e-landscape, teens are some of the most active and most inspiring. So, I bet you’ll hear some great stories of teens rockin’ the wireless waves!

    Look forward to hearing your thoughts on the event,


    Alex, aka Socialbutterfly’s last blog Drives Earth Day Buzz

  7. Thanks, Alex, great comments, I’m on it.

    Would love to speak with you more on the “mobile connection to behavior good and bad” too as I’m all over that one right now trying to get a bead on ‘perception vs. reality’ so your input could help!

    Also, did you go to the 09NTC?

    Amy Sample Ward said she’d swap me posts with the Ypulse info gleaned…anxious to find out how it went!

  8. Hi, interesting post. I have been wondering about this issue,so thanks for sharing. I’ll definitely be subscribing to your site.

  9. Okay, so I’m adding a cut-n-paste of Anastasia’s own article on her blog about “Can a youth mktg. conf. be pro-social?”

    As it’s imperative that we have a strong showing of voices in this mix…

    Can A Youth Marketing Conference Be Pro-Social? [Yes!]

    Posted by anastasia

    “With the Ypulse Youth Marketing Mashup just a few weeks away, I wanted to remind readers of the original Ypulse vision and how empowering youth (not just marketing to them) is baked into our event DNA.

    I started Ypulse five years ago with the vision of creating a community for both media and marketing professionals in the commercial space as well as non-profit professionals and educators working in the trenches to reach youth. Given my professional experience in both spaces, I thought there was an opportunity for these two worlds to collide on more equal footing, share expertise and research and partner on important projects. That original vision has never changed and has always been a part of both our editorial philosophy on the site/newsletter and an integral part of our conference programming. In fact, that’s why we called our event the Ypulse Mashup — because we wanted to bring together folks from both the for-profit and non-profit worlds who might not attend the same conferences.

    While we don’t have a specific youth activism panel or pre-conference planned for June (as we have at past Mashups), these themes will be interwoven throughout the event in the following ways:

    In addition to a session dedicated to how to build strong partnerships between non-profits and brands (i.e. Ashoka Youth Venture and Best Buy’s @15 initiative, which awarded young activists seed money for a variety of different pro-social organizations and causes), one of our sponsors, Premise, will be presenting a case study with the Partnership For A Drug-Free America about their WRECKED campaign. We’re also featuring social entrepreneur Carly Wertheim, the (teen) founder of Teens Turning Green on our Totally Wired Youth Entrepreneur panel. Josh Shipp, who is one of our keynotes, is constantly listening to teens, and will share what issues they care about most in his talk.

    In our Urban/Multicultural pre-conference, we are featuring a case study from the Hip Hop Chess Federation, which does amazing work with at-risk youth using the game of chess as well as a discussion on “Identity Politics – Marketing to Youth in the Age of Obama.” And on our Gen Y and the recession panel, mtvU will talk about their InDebtEd campaign, which is a pro-social initiative to educate college students about the financial crisis/debt/money.

    This year we also revived our Totally Wired Teacher Award (sponsored by Dell) to recognize a public school teacher using technology in innovative ways at school and will award the winner in person at the event.

    We are showing a FREE screening of the Sundance hit “DARE” on Monday night at the Hotel Nikko followed by a live Q&A with David Brind and Adam Salky and are reaching out to local youth organizations to offer them the opportunity to bring teens to the film.

    At our “user-generated” lunch, where attendees lead roundtable discussions on topics of their choice, we will have a table focused on “How to engage youth in brand cause marketing initiatives” led by the folks at KooDooZ.

    Finally, every year we donate four free exhibit spaces at the event to Bay Area non-profits that serve youth so that they can network with our attendees – this year we chose: Youth Radio, Horizons (who will also provide a youth DJ for our reception) and Mashup alums Girls For A Change and the youth programs from the Bay Area Video Coalition.

    I think you’ll hear these themes come up in other keynotes and presentations as well. And — we continue to offer an affordable non-profit rate for attendees. To make it even more affordable, you can use the code READER to get an additional 30 percent off the Mashup rates. Hope to see you in June!” –Anastasia Goodstein

    Amy Jussel’s last blog post..Mother’s Day Media Worth Forwarding to A Friend

  10. And I’m adding a slideshare video via from Patrick Collings on “Brands Doing Good” which is along these same lines, fyi:

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