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For their children to be durable, it isn’t enough anymore for parents to merely teach them crucial stuff like manners and how to hammer a nail. Add to the list everything to do with Technology. Yet, many view the vast Internet Ocean with fear and trepidation–especially if their kids have already jumped in. This concerns digital instigators such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft who want everyone to feel comfortable and safe in the water. And that’s why they’ve teamed up with the Family Online Safety Institute to teach swimming lessons on a new website called A Platform for Good.
Certainly, PfG’s heart is in the right place, but how does it work in practice?
The homepage is divided into three sections set up vertically—for Parents, Teachers and Teens. By placing Teens at the bottom they’re clearly not worried about Jakob Nielsen’s F-shaped visual tracking theory which claims people don’t usually read down that far.
Adult-written commentaries and blogs are prominent, as are what look like earnest stock photos. Each section has a Resource Center, which consists mainly of links to helpful external tools such as YouTube’s sweet and simple “Playing and Staying Safe Online.”
Google has contributed other outstanding videos hosted by charismatic 14-year-old TED talker Adora Svitak, on topics like “Your homework: Start a Movement!” which is in the Teachers section. But with no Search box, I had to hunt and peck to find Adora.
As for the site’s “interactivity,” a poll asks parents what digital topics they want to learn, suggesting a short list including “new social networking sites” and “filters and parental controls,” but there’s no way to submit ideas.
In the Teens section, visitors ages 13 to 21 could win an Xbox Kinect if, in 140 characters or less, they answer “Tell us what you wish your parents knew about technology!” I wondered if they vetted the site’s language and look with the target audience. “Hey Parents: Get a Clue!” in Comic Sans might play better.
Curious to get his take, I showed PfG to my own teenage guinea pig. Would the site be what Marne Levine, Facebook’s VP for Global Public Policy, calls “the ultimate conversation-starter?” You can read about his rather strong reaction in Part II.