I was 18 years old when I got my first email account, but it was a couple of years later before the internet was really in widespread use. Matt and I often comment on what a different world our children are growing up in as a result. Our three boys (nine, seven, and four) have discovered that EVERYTHING has a website, often with hilarious results. [Don’t worry, Mom, computer use is carefully supervised and thoroughly filtered.]
Of course, watching children’s television shows provides plenty of online curiosity. PBS Kids, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, they all have a website. Oh, and they promote the website during every commercial break. There are games, there are printouts, there are links to products (of course).
Most children’s authors have a website. Some of these are fantastic. Jan Brett, for example, has art (even cool animal masks) available for printing out and coloring. Some of you will be horrified to learn that my boys’ favorite is Dav Pilkey, author of the Captain Underpants series. If you’ve never heard of Captain Underpants, you may be questioning my parenting right now. But, how could you pass up the opportunity to play Tetris with falling booger-blocks? The boys are actually very impressed with my Tetris prowess — it’s just like riding a bike…
Since our obsession-of-the-moment is Legos, of course we have discovered that you can order replacement parts on their website. If you’ve never spent two hours looking under beds and behind dressers for a half-centimeter CRITICAL piece, you won’t understand the profound joy of this discovery. They also have building instructions, games, and once again, products. There is a separate website for Lego Exo-force, where you can discover the true stories behind these fascinating machines as an actual cartoon clip. (Are you hearing the sarcasm here? I guess if all of those episodes of Thundercats we watched didn’t do any lasting damage, a few minutes of Japanimation won’t do irreparable harm to our children.)And since you can never have enough Lego sets, Benjamin recently discovered that he can check on Amazon.com to find out how much money he’ll have to save up for the one he is eye-ing.
An older friend who was over (beware of “big boys”!) recently introduced them to YouTube. Don’t worry, we’re monitoring this very closely. So far, they mainly want to watch this little ditty (why is it so funny when a four-year-old sings it?) of people falling down and getting into various accidents while “Had a Bad Day” plays. [I was going to post it here, but couldn’t seem to find it without their help? Yikes!] Should I be concerned that they find others’ misfortunes funny?
Finally, I knew we’d reached a new frontier when Sam’s latest book report assignment listed a “build a website about your book” option. Luckily, Sam’s newly blog-savvy mom new that this would be easy! If you’d like to view his third grade efforts, click here.
I’m afraid Pandora’s box is open — the kids have discovered the internet. And just like so many other parts of our modern world, it is fun, it is funny, it is useful, and it has a dark side. I’m sure a lot of careful parents keep their children away from computers (and TVs, movies, kids with snotty noses, dogs, and on and on) for as long as possible. As for me, I’m going to teach them how to cross the street. And wash their own hands. And choose between the endless array of options that will forever be before them. And be safe.