02/27/07 -- Sara Gaines - A children's
charity has taken up residence in a virtual reality site to encourage teenagers
to report bullying and seek help. The NSPCC are setting up an outpost of the
helpline ChildLine at the popular teenage community site, Habbo.co.uk, in a
NSPCC hope that ChildLine will boost its visibility and encourage young people to talk
about issues that are bothering them.
Over the next few weeks the charity will be holding events and activities on the website to
get young people involved in a campaign to end bullying. As well as lining up celebrities to
hang out and chat to users, there will be a competition to perform an anti-bullying play. The
charity will also ask users for their views and experiences in a bullying poll.
Habbo is a virtual hotel where users create a pixel character and engage with other users
over an instant messenger system. This enables users to be anonymous, which
campaigners believe will help them to come forward and seek help.
Every month the site attracts more than 650,000 unique users aged 11 to 18, and has over
42 million page impressions. It also has localized Habbo communities in 29 countries on
Stephanie Hughes, the NSPCC's new media communications manager, said: "Websites
like Habbo are so much a part of teenagers' lives that it is vital we as an organization
communicate our campaign messages to youngsters in their natural browsing
environments and through brands and websites they trust."
The NSPCC's move follows an earlier awareness campaign on the site, Don't Hide It,
which was visited more than 300,000 times. Then Habbo set aside a calm space within its
public and private rooms as the NSPCC Zen Garden and a robot was programmed to
direct users to the charity's site.
Virtual community sites such as Habbo.co.uk have become increasingly popular with
organizations who want to communicate with teenagers. Other charities and campaigning
groups - including anti-drugs campaign Frank - are already running campaigns on the site
and the government sexual awareness campaign, R U Thinking, is also planning a venture