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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.