Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Lesson Learned Regarding "Innocent Online Games"

A couple of years ago Jack who was around 4 was given a TY beanie baby. It was like a Webkinz for preschoolers. I had no intention of telling him that it was anything other than a stuffed animals as I am not crazy about 4 yr olds on the computer, but his sisters realized at once what it was and told him. He was, of course, very excited to have his own "webkinz." Like a webkinz, his animal had a room and accessories and you earned stuff for him by playing games. The games are very easy and rather tame and harmless. At this stage of the game, he mostly plays the baseball when since baseball is his current obsession.
Not long ago, Emma was playing it and she was playing a babysitting game. The opening screen that popped up had 3 Hootchie Mamas introducing the game. I was totally shocked since not only was it a preschool game, but a game centered around stuffed animals! It said, "Games for Girls." I quickly told her that she couldn't play that game or any other game that was not their normal TY games they played. I kind of forgot about it until I was reading a book that mentioned something about Bratz online games that took me halfway by surprise(halfway because they are Bratz Dolls afterall).
Because of what I read, I went back to the TY site to see if I could find the game she was playing. I went to the daily games where you can find all the past daily games and found the babysitting game. I played the babysitting game. It was extremely easy and lame. There are two babies sitting in high chairs and you get them whatever item they are crying for. It is definitely a preschool level. BUT on the intro page is a link to "other girls games" or something along those lines. When I clicked it, I was sent to a page with all sorts of online games.
What I found there literally had me in tears over what young(and not so young children) could easily find and think they were ok because they got their from TY. Some of it has to be classified as cartoon porn. Here are a few examples. There is one game called Private Eye. In it you are shown a building with a bunch of windows with the shades pulled down. You are the Private Eye and have a camera. You pause over a window to see if you can take a picture when the shade is raised. Behind one window is a woman who is extremely well endowed in a thong bikini. Her backside is stuck up in the window and she drops her top. Her back is to the window but you do see her drop her top. Besides this being disturbing because she is inappropriately dressed and drops her top, it also teaches kids how to be peeping toms.
Another game is called "Naughty School." The story in this game is that the teacher is really hot and all the boys are in love with her and want to get a glimpse of her panties. You try to click on different things in the classroom to get her to fall down or squat down and when she does she flashes the class her pink panties at which time all the boys flash hearts over their heads. As I am playing this game, I am also wondering why this is a game for girls. Do we want our girls to think that it is perfectly normal and ok for boys to act this way?
Lastly, there were lots of kissing games. In one of the games, two couples are on dates and sitting at tables next to each other. The boy and girl at separate tables are cheating on their dates and when they aren't looking you are to have them kiss each other and not get caught. Seriously?? Besides promoting kissing to kids as young as preschoolers we are going to tell them cheating is ok as long as you don't get caught.
Beside the content of the games, and the lessons being taught in the games, I couldn't help but be disturbed by one other thing. These games were so easy to play. There was almost no skill to play them. If you could work a mouse and click a button you could play them. They were not challenging at all. Their sole purpose was sneaking a peak, kissing, or being naughty. I don't think that I am being over the top to think that the purpose of these games is to draw kids in to bigger and badder things and lure them into areas such as pornography.
I learned a valuable lesson. No matter how innocent or tame you think something online is, there is always that possibility of something inappropriate being just one simple click away. There is no such thing as too careful or too much supervision when it comes to kids and the internet. Filters only do so much. It was also a reminder to me, to train my kids on what to do when they see the slightest inclination of anything inappropriate, to not click away from approved places, and when in doubt to always ask! Afterall, if you put a kid on the internet you are practically asking them to navigate a mine field.

***Edited to add: This was not a webkinz. I compared it to a webkinz because most people know what they are and how they work. We do not have any active webkinz so I cannot tell you if it is possible to link away from their site to other places. This is a TY online animal not a Webkinz animal.


Jennifer said...

Rachel...This is so, so incredibly disturbing...thank you for taking the time to share it! I totally agree with you about the purpose of these "games"...and it is totally appalling! You're right...there is no such thing as "too careful" or "too much supervision". The consequences of one "slip" can be too devastating. :-(

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~*~ Jennifer ~*~ said...

Hmmm... Scentsy is going to sell Stuffed "buddies" and they will have a world you can explore on-line. It will be interesting to see what that all entails. THANKS so much for sharing this with us Rachel.

Boysnberries' Brambles said...

ugh. ugh. ugh.

Southern Sundries said...

Thank you for this post, Rachel! A good reminder. And VERY sad.

Caroline said...

Rachel, thanks for posting this. I let G. play lego games while I mow the lawn ... but probably need to rethink this. I had no idea. Maybe I should have AM come over and play with him instead.

Janice said...

Thanks for posting this. My kids are on webkinz (which is quite safe) and the exact thing happened. I checked history and found they they had clicked on links to Games for Girls. Awful stuff. I'm so thankful that the Lord brought my attention to it. They don't click on any external links and they are much more closely supervised now. You can't be too careful these days :(

Joyful Housewife said...

Thank you for this post. It is a good reminder of how careful we need to be protecting our children's hearts.

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I am looking forward to following you and you next posts.


Nan said...

Oh my gosh. I'm horrified at this. My kids are hardly on the computer at all. They really don't venture beyond their own e-mail pages and and spellingcity.

It's hard to believe the kind of crap that is marketed to children now.