Raising the First Generation of Internauts!

We’re one of those families that doesn’t have a television.  But that doesn’t mean that my kids are free of the habit of sitting in rapt attention in front of a blaring screen with what we do have: DVDs and Internet.  The way I see it, the computer-with-DVD-and-Internet option is better than broadcast television for two big reasons:

1. No junk-fook commercials.  I have enough trouble trying to teach them good eating habits without having Ronald McDonald singing to them daily, and

2. More options and more variety.

Advantage #2, naturally, has a big disadvantage: my kids can accidentally stumble onto stuff that’s not appropriate for kids.  However, I’m happy to report that we really haven’t had a problem with this at all.  We have a small and very centrally-open apartment, and the kids’ room opens directly onto the central living room and my office.  When they’re on the Internet, I’m always at least passively aware of what they’re doing.  And the worst thing they’ve found so far was that conspiracy theory video that I wrote about on Rational Moms way back when.

On the other hand, they’ve continued to find and watch science videos.  If the kids land on the odd creationist video, my guess is that it’s actually good for them to encounter this sort of stuff in the wild and practice their own brains on it.  (They’re curious to learn about religion, as we learned at my parents’ house, and I think it’s good for them to be exposed to it.)  And more often the kids stumble onto other random fun stuff like these Potter Puppet Pals.

Also, advantage #1 (no junk-food commercials) isn’t as straight-forward as it may appear.  Young kids generally can’t tell the difference between the content of a website and the ads around the edges.  The ads are often the flashiest thing on the page.  And they often visit websites where the whole site is, frankly, an advertisement.  Their current favorite website is Lego.com where they’re treated to all sorts of videos and video-games about all of the Lego sets they can buy.  As a result, they’re clamboring for the newest Lego sets even before they’re available in stores!

(7-year-old) Leo’s latest discovery is that practically every product has a website.  He’s proud of this discovery, and every time he identifies something as a web address (on a package, on an advertisement, on the side of a truck…) he points it out.  And if it’s a product he likes, he then wants to type it into the browser to see what comes up.  That includes cookies:

So far, this brave new type of direct-to-kid advertising hasn’t been too much of a problem for me and my little family.  I still think they’re getting more interesting and more educational fare on the Internet than they’d get from broadcast television.  Have you other parents’ had a similar experience?  Any insights to share?

p.s. I’m in the running for some blog awards, and I hope people won’t object if I drop here this link so you can have a look at my entries, and maybe consider voting for me. ;)

4 Responses to Raising the First Generation of Internauts!

  1. Julia says:

    My daughter (turning 7 in two days) is very into product websites too. Especially if the product (like Webkins) have a special code for each toy that you can type into the computer to be put into a massive marketing database. Oh yay. Of course the other part of me thinks, “Why did *I* come up with Webkins and their peronalized codes???”

    We do ok with PBS for tv shows and occasionally Disney Channel since the latter only shows commercials for Disney shows and bands. There are some really cool PBS shows on that are quite educational – but of course you can watch those right on the internet too without a tv at http://pbskids.org/findit/index.html Our favorites are Fetch with Ruff Ruffman and Sid the Science Kid.

    We are one of those homes where Cartoon Network is forbidden. I know that probably sounds Draconian to some parents but I’ve sat down and tried to watch Spongebob on that channel and for one thing Spongebob is just annoying and stupid but much worse than that, there are just commercials after commercials after commercials. Blaring, bright colored, louder-than-the-show glitzy commercials for toy after toy after toy. I’ve been talking to my daughter about advertising and how it’s not meant to teach her about products it’s meant to sell products to her by making them look better than they really are and she still will stare wide eyed at commercials and say “Wooooow! I’m sure that is totally cool in real life!” Urgh. So yeah, Disney is the most decadent we get otherwise it’s all PBS because that other stuff (even Sprout for preschoolers) is unbelievable with the commercials.

  2. Lisa says:

    We do have TV, but no pay TV. Just what our little rabbit years can get. We watch a lot of PBS and PBS kids. Whenever we go to a family member’s home with dish, cable, or whatever, my 2 start asking for all kinds of toys. This is mostly just annoying, but makes me glad I don’t have to listen to it all the time.

    My kids really like Potter Puppet Pals. Check out Chad Vader, it’s kinda silly, but the kids love it.

  3. Lynn Wilhelm says:

    My daughter (7) loves any kind of screen time. I do let her watch some TV but we now get only basic cable, so no Disney (I dislike most of that) or Nick. There are a few kids shows she likes on PBS, but some are getting old.
    We have been watching Nature and Nova online–she loves those.

    Webkinz is big with her too. She’s always saying she wants the newest toy advertised there. There are several websites I let her visit on her own and she’s done a little searching for horse videos–I keep an eye out there. She, too, notices the websites on tv in print and on products. I even hear her saying things like, “Check out ***.com for more about ***” or “Go to my website…” when she’s playing. It’s part of her life and will never go away.

    She just got to make her own website for a fundraising activity at her school. It was just a fill-in-the blank sort of thing, but she loved it.

  4. blotzphoto says:

    I’ve had pay tv for so long that I can’t imagine going without it. Specifically I need to get Fox Sports Net for Reds games.

    My kids are pretty web savvy at 6 and 3.5, they cab get online themselves and find PBS Kids or the great French website Poussin Rouge. They catch some commercial tv as well, spongebob and such. Oddly, the only advertising that has ever affected Abby all that much is the “Chuck-e-cheese” underwriting spots for pbs kids. The grown up show she’s really addicted to is Mythbusters, because they blow stuff up.

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