Sunday, October 28, 2007

Things my mother never taught me, Part III

Iris' birthday is less than a week away and she has written up a wishlist. I didn't have a problem with that until I read the list. The list is probably not that unique (except for the massage).

I was crestfallen to see so may things associated with web advertising on the list. She has discovered children's websites with a vengeance. It borders upon an addiction.

Like I previously wrote in Things my mother never taught me, I have mixed feelings about all the commercial messages she receives on the web. It is hard to stop them without pulling the plug on internet connectivity at home.

Kids exchange information in the schoolyard about website games and urls. She can type in her own urls now. She got frustrated because I wouldn't let her register for some sites which I found too commercial or taught messages that I didn't like. She found me too heavy-handed and she registers for websites without asking for permission now. She said that she didn't want to be the only kid in the school yard who couldn't talk about the games (much like I was the only kid who couldn't talk about last night's TV shows because my parents didn't let me watch).

Moreover, unless we lock the keyboard (even when we step away for one moment), she walks in and commandeers the computer to head straight for one of these websites. It is totally exasperating. Once, when the babysitter thought she had put her to bed, we found that she had snuck out of her room and taken the laptop to bed with her. She had formed a tent under her bedcovers and was playing some internet game. She threw such a fit, I had to unplug the modem to get her to relinquish the laptop.

It is time to run over the the Apple store in Manhattan Beach and buy OS X Leopard. It has parental controls that allow us to limit the amount of minutes she is on the computer, variable for weekdays and weekends. It also gives us a list of websites she visited. I wonder if it will also let me limit time spent at each particular website? After all, who knows what kind of person she will meet at Club Penguin? She could be playing with Caitlin Flanagan for all I know.

Mark ran into similar problems restricting her TV time. Our TV allows us to put parental controls, but it assumes that we want to limit stations other than G-rated ones. Those are the ones that she is interested in and we want to limit! Sigh. Mark had to tediously program in parental locks on all the children's networks one by one. Our TV setup has become so complicated, I have watched it only once in the last 3 months.

It is nice to know that others are in the same boat. Read Pay Up, Kid, or Your Igloo Melts. “Every interface is becoming an opportunity to sell children something, either brand awareness or real things,” said Liz Perle, the editor in chief of Common Sense Media. “That’s the end game.”


  1. We use the Firefox browser with the No Script add-on. All free for the downloading. It blocks all the animated advertisements very effectively.

  2. We use that, too. We don't have problems with popup ads.

    The problem is that the entire websites is set up to sell the product/brand. Have you ever gone to any of the websites put up by Mattel? There is a whole zoo of them: PixelChix, everythinggirl, Barbie, MyScene... Iris thinks that the whole dot com universe is populated with games for girls. They teach nothing but how to consume. "Work", in which they earn currency to buy stuff, requires no skill. They just sit around waiting to collect currency so that they can buy more.

  3. I'm "blessed" in that my child wants to hack monsters instead of "work" and our favorite monster hacking site feeds ads that are easily blocked.


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