Scratch

Website review by
Carla Thornton, Common Sense Media
Scratch Website Poster Image
Graphical application gives kids a taste of programming.
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 14 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 72 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this website.

Educational value

Kids can learn to make their own animations, video games, art, and music videos with Scratch’s visual block-based form of computer programming. It may seem easy to stack blocks using commands such as "move 10 steps" or "turn 15 degrees," but kids can quickly learn valuable programming concepts like loops and conditionals, as well as bottom-up problem solving. Collaboration is encouraged, and fellow Scratch kids can give helpful comments on each other's projects. An incredibly clever intro to computer programming concepts, this site could use additional real-time support.

Positive messages

The site consists mainly of tutorials and Scratch creations uploaded by users who want to show off their work. Most Scratch creations are crudely drawn (think South Park) but G-rated and occasionally quite clever.

Violence & scariness

Some Scratch animations are reminiscent of The Simpson’s Itchy and Scratchy cartoon, with stick figures clobbering one another and spilling copious amounts of red Paintshop “blood.” Still, it's pretty tame stuff compared with your typical 3D shooter.

Sexy stuff
Language

Some characters featured on the Scratch site talk smack, such as vowing to “kick butt” or kill each other.

Consumerism

This MIT-sponsored site is ad free.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this site teaches reasoning skills and a basic understanding of programming that will serve kids well no matter what their future occupation.

User Reviews

Parent of an infant, 1, 4, 5, 7, and 8 year old Written bysilverstream August 6, 2015

Oversensitive Scratch Team

I wish I was still on Scratch, but they IP banned me for no reason. The scratch team is just too oversensitive. Really, they just ban everybody and their networ... Continue reading
Adult Written bymistahme August 13, 2013

Wish I had had this as a kid!

I'm a programmer myself, and when I saw this on TED I was blown away, since giving it to my 12 and 13 year old boys I've been blown away with what the... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old April 28, 2010

Youtube for Kids!

I love scratch- I've been doing it for a year and a half now on my account, MagicRabbit. It's a perfectly fine website as long as kids have discipline... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old April 14, 2010

LOVE it!

i'm in love with this site! when i first made my account, i coudn't stop coming back even though at first i was a nobody but now i've made so muc... Continue reading

What's it about?

Scratch is a free, downloadable application that lets users combine graphics, photos, music, and sound to create simple interactive animations, games, and slide shows. Users create scripts by dragging and dropping graphical blocks that snap together like puzzle pieces. They can then post their creations on the Scratch site, where others can view and download them. This MIT effort is named after scratching, the technique hip-hop DJs use to create music by combining turntable manipulation with prerecorded clips and synthesizers.

Is it any good?

There are easier ways to create, say, an animated greeting card than to use a program like Scratch. Then again, most greeting card software doesn't attempt to teach programming like Scratch does. With building blocks divided into intuitive categories such as "motion" and "sound," older kids should be able to quickly knock together creations in which characters sing, dance, and talk.

Scratch is certainly easier to pick up than eToys, a similar visual programming app for kids. Where Scratch stumbles is in explaining variables, random numbers, and other mathematical concepts. Unless kids have already learned these in school, they'll need help in understanding and using them in Scratch. One other nit: Too many of the Scratch creations featured on the site load very slowly or not at all.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the benefits of mastering Scratch, a program that, despite a pretty good interface, will almost certainly overwhelm kids who are not mathematically inclined. Younger children especially will need adult assistance, both in getting started and understanding the program's most complex concepts.

Website details

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