Microsoft Kin Ad Sending Wrong Message to Teens?

The Microsoft Kin is a cute little social networking  device that plays into the average teen’s desire to be constantly connected to everyone he or she has ever met – or hasn’t met.  Billed as a Gen-Y social networking tool, the Kin has a slide-out keyboard, a camera and easy access to all the texting, tweeting and Facebooking a teen could ever want.  It’s cute, it’s fun and, according to the Website, lets users share life as they are living it.

Microsoft is clearly attempting to be edgy and appeal to teens in their advertisements for the Kin.  Their latest ad, however, is drawing criticism for encouraging young people to engage in risky behavior. 

The video ad features a young girl named Rosa who sets out on a cross-country mission to have face-to-face encounters with the people in her social networking circle, many of whom she’s never actually met in real life.  That’s right.  She is doing exactly what parents warn their kids not to do:  Meeting up with strangers she’s met online.

One particularly disturbing encounter is with a guy named Matty who has been coming on to her via Facebook.  She’s flirty, he’s creepy and the whole thing just feels dangerous and wrong.

Of course, despite appearing otherwise, Kin ads are scripted and the young people are actors who aren’t really in any danger. But Consumer Reports says the Kin videos are promoting risky behavior and at least one parenting expert agrees.  Jen Singer of Mamasaid calls the ads “disturbing” and “wrong in so many ways.”  “This is what our mothers told us to avoid,” she says.  “What bothers me is they’re giving equal weight to Facebook friends and real-life friends. Children don’t seem to know the difference anymore.”

This isn’t the first time that Microsoft has drawn criticism for a Kin ad.  An earlier one features a group of young people – teens? twentysomethings?  – partying down and having what appears to be the time of their lives.  In one shot, a young man uses his Kin to take a photo of his bare chest and send it along to a girl across the room.  After complaints that the ad was encouraging sexting, Microsoft apologized and removed that scene from the video.

Microsoft is presumably chock full of smart people who are aware of the dangers lurking online.  They know just as well as the rest of us that people misrepresent themselves on the Internet and that young people are particularly vulnerable when it comes to trusting strangers.  With their track record, however, one wonders if Microsoft is deliberately crossing the line with their ads.

Check out the video for yourself and let us know what you think.

Image: Kin.com

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