Roger L. Simon

Brave New Parental World

Stumbling to my computer this morning, I noticed on Pajamas a report on a cutesy (or not-so-cutesy) German kids’ site called Helles Koepfchen. It’s hard to say the age category this webpage is aimed at but, judging from the machine translation and my poor German, I’d guess 10, though younger kids could certainly log on and be “entertained and instructed.” The site itself informs the kids of such things as Bush is an “unbeloved president of a beloved land” (which, I suppose, went bonkers for a day when electing him by several million votes) and that Austria “don’t [machine translation] want Arnie anymore.”

This is a form of intellectual/emotional child abuse. When I read it, I immediately thought of those Palestinian four-year olds running around with AKs – only this time it’s the mind only that is being corrupted.

Ironically, only last night I loaded Bumpercar 2.0 – a child’s browser – onto Sheryl’s old iMac which we have given to Madeleine. Our daughter is seven-and-a-half now, reading pretty well and anxious to go online by herself. We set up Bumpercar together, a lovely father-daughter experience but with, on my part, a slight overtone of trepidation I tried not to let slip out. I was glad (more glad than Madeleine) that Bumpercar is heavily weighted toward educational sites (scientific ones, not progandistic ones), many of which seem quite interesting. You can add sites one-by-one after that, with a parental password. I was pleased Madeleine was rather blasé about my adding Barbie.com, an old favorite. Still, the firt site she clicked on was the Cartoon Network. I would have too, at her age (not that they had it.)

More about the German “kiddie” site at Davids Medienkritik.