A Little Glob’ll Do Ya

20 02 2011

When each of our daughters were 1 year old, we made sure to place a small computer mouse in their equally small hand, and introduced them to the wonders of computing. We realized back then (1998 and 2002, respectively) that computers were going to be a way of life, so they had better get started early. It is a decision we do not regret (nor do they). They were born at the onset of a generation that is now known as Digital Natives.

Of course, much has changed since the turn of the century. There are many more things on which I spend my time training the kids. Computers are as common as TVs. There are new lands to conquer: iPods, iPhones, iPads. And social networks.

If you think the future isn’t going to revolve around the latter, maybe you need to do a quick reassessment. Sure, something newer and better will probably come along one day, but for now this is a fundamental skill everyone needs to know. Including kids.

Which is why I was instantly intrigued by the recent launch of GlobWorld, a social media site for kids under 13.

So what’s so magical about 13? Simple. Facebook won’t lt you open an account unless you’re 13. Of course, it’s no secret that Facebook isn’t checking IDs at the door, which is how our oldest daughter got her account (I confess: I did it for her).

GlobWorld requires parental participation. One of its primary aims is to get a grip on cyber-bullying, a subject that has received much media play in the last year. But in a broader sense, GlobWorld is really a training ground for our youth, readying them to assume the responsibilities (and risks) of full-on social media usage.

Oh, and the marketing folks at GlobWorld are all geniuses, because they have figured out how to monetize this venture from the osnet by merchandising the daylights out of it. Imagine if Mark Zuckerberg had started offering Facebook t-shirts, bobble-heads and stuffed animals from Day 1. Maybe he wouldn’t have to sell so much advertising.

While many critics have snickered and dismissed GlobWorld already, I think it’s actually not a bad idea. Just as I think it is important to help our kids learn how to make big decisions, to learn how to navigate life’s choppy seas, I think it is equally important for our youth to be prepared for what will be a life of online transparency.

Better to learn it young than founder later on.

And even though I am guilty for helping our then-faux teenager set up her FB account, I continue to monitor it daily. Her page is tethered to a dedicated email account I set up for that precise purpose, so I know everything that goes on. I can intervene in a heartbeat.

The critic in me, though, says that Globworld is really not a whole lot different from the online communities already established with Webkinz and sites like Club Penguin. We’ve done those sites for several years with the kids, and they confidently move about them. Good training, in my estimation. But at the end of the day, Globworld is just Facebook’s younger freckled cousin.

That said, I have no problem with introducing our youngest daughter to this latest manifestation of social networking. It is only a matter of time before she realizes all of her friends have FB accounts, and she, too, will want one. I would rather her be ready for it than leap into it unaware.

I had no way of knowing about a decade ago that those small hands would one day spend hours each on applications that had yet to be developed. Likewise, I have no idea now what the year 2020 will bring. But I want the kids to be ready. Rather than shelter them, I want them to be able to swim in a sea whose tide ebbs and flows with rapid irregularity.

And as for me, I can only wish that I had grown up a Digital Native, for I am but a transplant, an immigrant from a different land. A different time. I had to learn to think this way, whereas our kids have known nothing else. Just this morning, I put my first-gen Kindle in the hands of Oldest Daughter, and in the span of 5 minutes, she showed me features I did not know existed.

I suppose she’ll be Facebooking that before the afternoon is over.

Dr “Old Wiring” Gerlich



One response

14 03 2011

I just pointed my 11 year old, who was asking for a facebook page, to Globworld. I’ll let you know how it works out.

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