A virtual world for kids who rock (podcast)

ToonsTunes, a new online venue, hosts a tool called Mixo-O-Matic that lets children members, ages 6 to 14, lay down tracks from drums, guitar, bass, keyboard, and other instruments.

ToonsTunes lets kids make and share music. ConnectStudios

A virtual world aimed at kids between 6 and 14 enables them to interact with each other, play games, and create and share their own musical creations.

The world looks like a lot of other virtual words for children, where avatars walk around and enter a variety of rooms. But each of the rooms in ToonsTunes has a music theme, and one of those rooms, the Recording Studio, lets kids use a tool called "Mixo-O-Matic" that lets them lay down tracks from drums, guitar, bass, keyboard, and other instruments.

Kids can control the beat and the genre, (country, rock, etc.), and when they're done recording, they can save the song to share with others.

In a post about the site, NetFamilyNews.org blogger Anne Collier (who is my co-director at ConnectSafely.org) observed that ToonsTunes focus on music "naturally nudges young users into what social-media researchers call 'interest-driven social networking,' with elements of interest and skill development as well as social development."

ToonsTunes is a project of ConnectedStudios. Founder and CEO Paul Bohan said the service "is an opportunity for kids to develop more self-esteem, have positive interactions, and listen to what other kids can do with music."

Safety
The service can be configured to allow kids to interact by typing in open chat, or it can be limited to preselected phrases, which is a good idea for very young children. Software monitors chat to block inappropriate words, and there are human moderators who "walk around the world, visibly interacting with the players and keeping the tone of discourse where is should be," according to Bohan.

Moderators also look for users sharing personally identifiable information. Bohan said that when the company made its online monitors visible, "the tone of conversations improved almost immediately, when it was recognized there were moderators everywhere."

ToonsTunes is free, but the company plans to add pay features, including the ability to purchase additional instruments.

Click below to listen to the 9:15 interview with ToonsTunes founder and ConnectedStudios CEO Paul Bohan

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About the author

Larry Magid is a technology journalist and an Internet safety advocate. He's been writing and speaking about Internet safety since he wrote Internet safety guide "Child Safety on the Information Highway" in 1994. He is co-director of ConnectSafely.org, founder of SafeKids.com and SafeTeens.com, and a board member of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Larry's technology analysis and commentary can be heard on CBS News and CBS affiliates, and read on CBSNews.com. He also writes a personal-tech column for the San Jose Mercury News. You can e-mail Larry.

 

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