Saturday, August 8, 2009

Micro-Review of KIDO'Z

I have been looking for websites where children can express their creativity through video games, and I recently came across KIDO'Z. Now the primary focus of KIDO'Z is not gaming, but to be "the Kid's Web Environment" as it says on their website. In the spirit of this being a micro-blog, here is a micro-review.

KIDO'Z opens up an Adobe Air Application that allows children to do three activities:
  • Browse the Web. There is a list of approved websites (that the parent can add to and block at her liberty) with the usual suspects: Thomas, Mickey Mouse, Dora, Tiger and Pooh, etc. The initial experience of selecting the website resembles the iTunes store and is thus very different from browsing the web. In addition, even going to "approved" websites does not prevent the display of material that is at the least not useful for children. For example, the website of Dora the Explorer shows at the bottom some sponsored links (including how to save on house insurance and how to find a local moving company). These sponsored links appear in the KIDO'Z browser as well, however clicking on the links just reloads the webpage. I think this gives a distorted view of concept of a link and the functionality of the Web.
  • Watch a limited set of YouTube videos. The most popular "channels" include classic cartoons, the "Animal Channel" to give you an idea of what is approved.
  • Some games, none of them seem to tickle the creative spark in a child.
I tried to play with the "Parental Control Center" but I first ran against a wall: The password that I had created when first signing up had more than 10 characters, but the password box on the "Parents Login" site only let me input 10 characters. So I re-started the application and went to the parents' part of the website from within the app. The parent has full control over the content and can block and add content at will. Below is a video that gives you an idea about the type of control a parent has.

There do not seem to be any "social features" in the application; no networks of parents that recommend each other content; only various lists of approved content with comments and ratings.

I can see that there is a market for this kind of application; it gives children exposure to content on the Web while keeping the parent in control. And I like the idea of the parent setting virtual boundaries but then letting the child explore the space by herself. And as a portal for content that is suitable for children the site is not bad. But personally I am not sold; I did not like it that the interface of the application is different from a standard browser, and I think that if you have the time it is better to sit next to your child when she surfs the web, point her to some content that is worthwhile to explore, and discuss and answer her questions yourself.

No comments:

Post a Comment