A generation ago, it was not uncommon for parents to reward their children for staying out of trouble with a few extra quarters at the video arcade. Today, of course, video games — many of which can cause trouble — are accessible everywhere. So how can parents steer their preteens to the right ones?
The founders of Chicago-based startup Media Chaperone believe that a combination of Facebook and virtual goods-supported game-play will help them get to the next level. For starters, Facebook is one of the few places on the planet with broad appeal to both parents and their children.
“Facebook has become the place for moms on the Internet,” explains Ed Lewis, the 41-year-old co-founder of Media Chaperone who has two young children of his own. In Lewis’s estimation, of the more than 40 million U.S. moms who are members of Facebook, more than one-third of them “start their day” on what is the mother of all social networks.
Last October, Media Chaperone launched the “piggyback” app on Facebook. Piggyback synchronizes Facebook accounts, enabling parents to monitor their kids as they play a few select games developed by the Media Chaperone partners. The monitoring tool is free, and parents are also sent e-mail alerts that track weird activity and indicate when a child is deserving of a reward for good in-game behavior. Rewards can then be purchased in the form of virtual goods, while Media Chaperone gets a piece of the action.
Lewis, who is on his third startup, to date has raised approximately $250,000 in seed capital. The company is in the process of raising a larger round of financing. Future plans include expanding into mobile devices, and other online gaming and social platforms.
Regardless of the medium, Lewis says, parents will always practice positive reinforcement.
“From arcades to Pokeman to Facebook, micro-transactions are part of the fabric of growing up,” he said. “For preteens, parents play a part in powering that interest.”
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