Are dolls going digital? PopJammers are going crazy about Gacha and Dollify.

PopJam, our safe-social platform for under 13s, has always been a place for kids to share their latest trends in a safe and creative community.

Through spikes of activity in November and December we saw several new trends appearing. In our Kids Trend Predictions for 2019 blog we mentioned that Gacha was a kid-predicted trend, particularly for YouTube content – and Gacha has truly arrived.

Interested in kids trends? Every month we create a Kids Insights Report, digging into all the trends in our highly-engaged PopJam community. If you’d like to check out this month’s report, click here.

The word Gacha comes from Japanese toy machines and video games, a mechanic where characters are unlocked through monetisation, points collection or virtual currency methods. Currently, there are several big Gacha apps/games, including Gacha Life, Gacha Studio and Gachaverse (categorised as 9+ in the App Store). Most of these games involve creating and personalising your own characters and then using backgrounds and speech bubbles to create stories and roleplays.

Gacha is popular with PopJammers and other kids (predominantly girls) because they love to create OCs (original characters) and they also enjoy recreating anime styles as well as customising and decorating chibi templates (chibi is Japanese slang for short or small).

This is more than just creativity: it’s a personalisation experience, allowing kids to play with dolls in the digital age. It makes the experience all about them, offering unlimited design choices (no limits on expensive toy doll outfits) and more ways to share the experience with friends (new friends, friends who may not be physically present, friends who are part of a specific fan community). There are other elements that make Gacha successful, such as using the characters to tell stories and for roleplaying, but they need to take place in a safe, moderated online environment, such as PopJam.

The most digital part of the experience comes from kids being able to watch endless Gacha videos on YouTube, as well as posting their own videos. There are obvious safety implications when kids are exploring YouTube unsupervised, and risks if kids are posting videos without adult guidance.

Another digital doll trend we saw emerge was Dollify, an app for kids 4+ that allows them to create doll versions of themselves, their friends and their families.

Again, this is popular because kids love the art style and the end result. The app turns a doll template into whatever the users desire, selecting details such as hair and colouring, down to freckles, accessories and filters. A possible concern is that this unrealistic visual is used to represent the user online, but it is safer than kids attempting to post their own images.

Many kid-centric apps may have chat functions or social elements that are not moderated, or may not be GDPR-K or COPPA compliant. It’s also important to check that free apps don’t push inappropriate advertising or link out of the space (Dollify, for example, features links to YouTube).

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Craig Donaghy is Head of Community for PopJam, the largest kid-safe social content platform.