What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Nickelodeon's "green" site imparts positive messages and has no inappropriate content. There's not much in the way of text so early readers should be fine; however, the site does use big terms like "C02" and "sustainable." Some sections require a nickname and password to login, but kids are told not to use their real names or any personal information, and the site states it takes every precaution to keep kids safe online. There are links to Nick's other, more commercial sites and its online community, Nicktropolis. A message board links to Nick's safe main message board area, which includes links other message areas. Except for a "sponsored by Wal-Mart" image (that links to the store's site), the only other ads (kid-targeted) are on the message boards. The current game stars popular cartoon characters Sponge Bob and Patrick (more games will be added at the end of 2008).
What's it about?
Nickelodeon's BIGGREENHELP.COM features resources and activities to inspire kids to take an active role in conserving, renewing, and protecting our valuable natural resources. Daily archived tips provide fresh ideas for being green, and kids can take quizzes to see how much they already know (or how much they have to learn). There's a glossary of Al Gore's favorite words, such as "sustainable" and "greenhouse effect." Budding filmmakers can upload their own videos to show what they're doing to save the planet (such as planting a tree). And when it's time for a little eco-entertainment, there's a game, in which players help Sponge Bob suck up trash-spreading bubbles (and trash) with vacuum cleaners. Nick plans to add more games, and in November 2008, will roll out a "first-of-its-kind global multiplayer online green game for kids."
Is it any good?
The site's high-production look is sure to appeal to kids and it imparts good messages and offers some educational information, but one would think that, given Nickelodeon's vast resources, there would be a little more substance. The daily tips, message board, and video upload are the strongest features -- hopefully kids will take advantage of the last two to communicate ideas to keep the Earth healthy. The glossary is good but has a typo or two. Correct answers are not provided for the quiz (which also has some typos) and you never know how many answers you got right. Perhaps this is to keep kids returning to try to improve their rating, but some kids might get frustrated. The Sponge Bob game, which has no educational value, could use more instructions as it took a few tries to figure out that clicking the right mouse button activated the vacuum.
The upcoming multiplayer game sounds promising, and as the video diary and message board continues to grow, BigGreenHelp.com could evolve into an busy online community where kids exchange ideas and share their green efforts.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about how much time is enough to play even the best quality online games. What is a fair limit for computer time? When should you log off and play with real-life friends outside, learning about the Earth first-hand? Families can talk also about the new things this site taught them about how to take care of the environment. Can you pick three things you learned on the site that you can start doing today to help our planet?