As the issue of Internet safety continues to breed a barrage of same-old filters that may or may not acutally protect kid surfers, L.A.-based Passport New Media has taken a different tack by launching a program called YOW that offers up a virtual recreation of the Web environment and links only to recognized content partners.
‘YOW is not a filtering tool or surveillance software, it’s a new breed of `closed environment’ software that allows children a `virtual Internet’ experience without actually letting them on-line,’ says YOW CEO Brian Pass. ‘This software addresses many parents’ concerns about Internet access and being one mouse click away from inappropriate content and Web predators.’
With YOW, children are safely walled off from their parents’ Net connection, search engines and Web site browsers. The program provides a virtual site that looks and acts like the real thing with links to 12 top-name content partner brands such as Time for Kids, Carmen Sandiego, Learning Planet, Brainpop, Reader Rabbit and Hiyah.com.
Utilizing push technology, information from content providers’ Web sites is updated to the computer nightly through an Internet connection during downtime, providing new content daily. Because the data is already downloaded to the desktop, there are no bandwidth constraints that are traditionally associated with the Internet. In addition, pages load instantly and streaming video can be used with ease.
Kids entering the YOW site will find a main street filled with interactive adventures. A cute mascot, Yop (Your Own Penguin), is a virtual pet that can be fed, bathed and played with. He can also be seen in an assortment of streaming animated cartoons by clicking the town cinema. Kids can enter YOMA (Your Own Museum of Art) and create their own artistic masterpieces, and at Wala’s Music Shoppe, they can play a wide variety of musical instruments
The site is supported by advertisers who get into the act with their own kid-friendly content. Recently, a banner ad for Disney’s latest CGI feature flick Dinosaur was cleverly conceived as an interactive game that charges the user with helping the dinosaurs escape from a rock cave.
Launched in February, YOW has since added additional content partners including Jim Henson’s Muppets, Sports Illustrated for Kids, Space Kids (from Space.com) and Boffomedia’s Mother Goose Rock, with more to come. AT&T will be promoting YOW to its cable customers as its monthly ‘Nice Surprise’ in July. And Pass has bigger plans ahead with additional parental content and software availability downloadable directly from the www.yourownworld.com Web site. ‘YOW is software that changes everyday,’ he says, ‘just like your kid.’