Barney's Rubble

The YouTube Mess

It's all fun and games until Barney (the dinosaur, not the journo) loses an eye...or worse.

The Internet is like the wild West, full of excitement, change and all manner of outlaws, renegades and ne'er-do-wells. That's fine for most grownups, but I've got four kids and the seamy side of the 'Net doesn't make me happy.

My daughter Kiley just turned two, and loves all things Elmo, Barney -- not me as much as the dinosaur -- and Teletubbies.

We were watching a Barney video and then clicked on another -- only to see Barney gunned down (fortunately not me, but the dinosaur Barney).

I shut it down fast, but the damage was done. The same thing happened with Winnie the Pooh and Teletubbies. These are the second or third or fourth videos offered in these categories, and there's no warning that these cuddly creatures will be met with violence from some Internet imbecile. There are no labels or titles. Nothing. And these are on some hugely popular kids' YouTube spots.

I'm no fan of censorship, but what I hate even more is seeing my sweet daughter traumatized!

Then, there's Xbox Live.

This Christmas my 13-year-old son Nick just had to have the Xbox 360. My first observation: the irony that a teenager thinks a Microsoft game product is the coolest!

I explained that we already have a Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 64, an original Nintendo, a Wii, a PS2 and plenty of PCs, and he had a nearly new MacBook. Nick didn't budge. Talking sense into a 13-year-old is like convincing Bill Maher that God exists -- ain't gonna happen.

So off I went to Best Buy for an Xbox, which came to about $300. A small portfolio of games to make the console actually useful came to another $240. After lightening my wallet by $540 bucks, the young Master Barney just had to have Xbox Live, which is another $50 a year. I was done shelling out the coin, so he conned his mother into funding Xbox Live.

Microsoft markets Xbox Live as achieving lofty goals. Live gamers can connect to others from across the world and, besides competing, learn about new cultures.

Bunk! Xbox Live is just one extended crank phone call. Nick and his older brother David play Xbox Live all weekend long. The first thing I noticed is they never use their real voices. The 15-year-old David pretends to be a Harvard professor, arguing, pontificating and lecturing.

Nick has a range of characters. He imitates Barack Obama, plays a character named Nerd Boy and pretends to be only 7. I'm not sure how cultured my sons are becoming, but their acting chops are really coming along.

Thoughts on YouTube or Xbox are welcome at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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Reader Comments:

Mon, Jun 29, 2009 John Flores Dallas, Texas

I remember a column written in a user group newsletter on how about six years ago, the author allowed her to use the internet. The young daughter typed in "I love horses" into a search engine. The daughter was about ten and her monitor was covered in photos of people that physically love horses. Quite disturbing... The Internet is still along way from being "child friendly". The only answer is internet filtering and monitoring. From what I read, Iran, is very sophisticated in this regard. Dissent Iranians are shown print outs of their text messages after they are jailed. This is one scary extreme. Rephrasing an old parent's bit of wisdom, "It's ten o'clock. Do you know who is IMing / texting your child?" How do we police the Youtubes, Facebooks, and Twitters of today and those networks that will follow them? Did anyone change their city, state, nation to Tehran, Iran in support of the pro-democracy movement? I did not, i really believe that it would not fool the Iran Internet police one bit. What would we think if our youth led mass rallies to protest the war, the banking industry, greed in our society, or just secretly plan a day to play hooky? Think about it....

Mon, May 4, 2009 Anonymous Anonymous

I agree on the Youtube mess as well. I remember looking for something for my girlfriend's kid and ending up in the same boat. I am all for freedom of speech and agaisnt censorship but there should be a label you can add to each video to keep that from coming up when you are searching for a kid.

Also, I refuse to let the same kid (he is 8 by the way) have XBox Live even though he throws fits about it. There is no way to regulate what he sees and hears on there.

Personally, I think more parents should just learn their foot down and stick with saying "No" sometimes but that is a different issue altogether.

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