Do you believe babies and children should be tossed into the internet ether for babysitting, entertaining and socializing?
Or should we return to core family values where kids and babes are
socially protected, entertained by toys they can actually holds in
their hands and their babysitters are people and not web games?
The New York Times
published an astonishing article indicating the new business movement
for “eyes and minds” on the internet is for those belonging to the
kindergarten set. The “Tweeners” and the teenagers are old news
because their honeypots are dry and overexposed.
Second Life and other virtual worlds for grown-ups have
enjoyed intense media attention in the last year but fallen far short
of breathless expectations. The children’s versions are proving much
more popular, to the dismay of some parents and child advocacy groups.
Now the likes of the Walt Disney Company,
which owns Club Penguin, are working at warp speed to pump out sister
“Get ready for total inundation,” said Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst
at the research firm eMarketer, who estimates that 20 million children
will be members of a virtual world by 2011, up from 8.2 million today.
The babes and kiddies, however — those who are barely in school — are
ripe for the ripping off and big companies like Disney are reaping the
rewards from the direct disinterest of parents in the well-being of
their kids online.
Worlds like Webkinz, where children care for stuffed
animals that come to life, have become some of the Web’s
fastest-growing businesses. More than six million unique visitors
logged on to Webkinz in November, up 342 percent from November 2006,
according to ComScore Media Metrix, a research firm…
By contrast, Disney last month introduced a “Pirates of the
Caribbean” world aimed at children 10 and older, and it has worlds on
the way for “Cars” and Tinker Bell, among others. Nickelodeon, already
home to Neopets, is spending $100 million to develop a string of
worlds. Coming soon from Warner Brothers Entertainment, part of Time Warner: a cluster of worlds based on its Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera and D. C. comics properties.
Add to the mix similar offerings from toy manufacturers like Lego and Mattel.
Upstart technology companies, particularly from overseas, are also
elbowing for market share. Mind Candy, a British company that last
month introduced a world called Moshi Monsters, and Stardoll, a site
from Sweden, sign up thousands of members in the United States each day.
Does this monetization of childhood bother you?
Is this coveting business interest in pre-school and kindergarten kids
a new phenomenon or has it always been in effect over the last century?
“Parents know they can trust our brand to protect kids,”
said Steve Youngwood, executive vice president for digital media at
Nickelodeon. “We see that as a competitive advantage.”
Should we ever trust big business to entertain our children and care
for their minds or must we pull the plug on the internet and shelter
young minds from the indoctrination of web morals and ether values?
How far away are we from The Internet Manger where newborn babies are
cast into cradles made of e-paper and surrounded in a womb-like swirl
of RSS Feeds, cartoon bunnies begging for pennies, and encyclopedic
games pretending to be tools of learning?
How soon will The Tooth Fairy begin charging for visits instead of
paying for the honor?
Will we be implanting “Club Penguin: The Womb Version” to pull spare
e-change from developing fetuses before they can catch their first
How will we ever win back our kids to face the reality of the mortality
of flesh and the morality of bone?