Nothing Compares to CD-ROM

“All toys and games will be replaced with business marketing proposals!”

In a world where children are practically handed iPads straight out of the womb to watch their favorite YouTube stars like Ms. Rachel, who boasts a staggering 6.49 million subscribers (don’t get me started on Skibidi Toilet), it’s easy to reminisce about the good old days of CD-ROM games. You know, the ones you’d sometimes find in your Chex. Computer gaming was a pivotal part of my childhood, and I believe it played a crucial role in making me computer literate at a young age. Games like Dazzeloids and the Putt-Putt series hold a special place in my heart. But why does this all matter? Why should we care?

Well, it matters because there’s something magical about the experience of being a child sitting at a computer and playing a game. It’s a memory that many of us from the 90s share, and it’s worth examining how it compares to the childhood experiences of today’s tech-savvy generation.

Comparing the experiences of children who grew up in the 90s, spending their time playing educational CD-ROM games, with today’s children who have easy access to iPads, YouTube Kids, and a plethora of social media platforms, reveals several noteworthy differences. Rather than rushing to judgment about the effects of technology on these two generations, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons of each era.

Educational CD-ROM Games of the 90s:

Educational CD-ROM games of the 90s were carefully designed to be engaging and interactive. These games encouraged kids to think critically, solve puzzles, and interact with content in a meaningful way, fostering cognitive development and problem-solving skills. In the 90s, kids had restricted access to computers, and CD-ROM games typically had a set duration. This enforced a degree of self-regulation, ensuring that children didn’t spend excessive time glued to screens. CD-ROM games were primarily used offline, which minimized distractions and the risk of exposure to inappropriate internet content.

iPads and YouTube Kids for Today’s Children:

iPads and platforms like YouTube Kids provide easy access to educational content. This convenience can be a blessing for busy parents, offering children a swift means of exploring various educational materials. The internet now offers a plethora of educational resources that cater to different learning styles and abilities, allowing children to explore their interests more freely. The downside to this accessibility is the potential for overstimulation and passive consumption. Kids may spend prolonged hours watching mindless content, which can hinder their cognitive development. Although YouTube Kids strives to filter content, it’s not foolproof. There’s still a risk that children may encounter inappropriate or misleading content, necessitating vigilant parental supervision. That’s why I want to take a quick moment to talk about Elsagate.

Elsagate is a term that emerged to describe a disturbing and troubling trend on online platforms like YouTube, targeting children. It refers to a phenomenon where numerous videos and content, seemingly innocent and child-friendly on the surface, are actually filled with inappropriate, unsettling, or even violent themes. The term “Elsagate” is a portmanteau of “Elsa,” the popular Frozen character, and “gate,” a reference to the Watergate scandal, highlighting the secretive and deceptive nature of this issue.

The Elsagate controversy gained attention in the late 2010s when concerned parents, educators, and media outlets started noticing a significant amount of content on YouTube that appeared to be designed for children but contained disturbing elements. These videos often featured recognizable children’s characters, such as Elsa, Spider-Man, and other superheroes, engaging in bizarre and inappropriate scenarios. Some common themes included violence, sexual innuendo, and even explicit content. These videos were disguised with colorful thumbnails, misleading titles, and tags that exploited popular children’s keywords, making them highly visible to young audiences.

So, why did this happen, and who was responsible?

Part of the problem can be attributed to YouTube’s algorithmic recommendations. The platform’s algorithm was designed to keep users engaged by suggesting related content. When children watched one seemingly harmless video, the algorithm often led them to other Elsagate content. Creators exploited this feature to generate views and ad revenue, thus inadvertently promoting inappropriate material. Some individuals and groups were intentionally creating Elsagate content to capitalize on the popularity of children’s characters and the lack of proper oversight on the platform. They aimed to generate views and revenue by taking advantage of the platform’s vast, young audience.

YouTube’s content moderation was criticized for not effectively screening and removing inappropriate content. As a result, many parents felt that the platform wasn’t doing enough to protect children from harmful material. In response to the Elsagate controversy, YouTube took several steps to address the issue. They implemented stricter content policies, age restrictions, and improved algorithms to filter and remove inappropriate videos. They also limited ad revenue for channels that produced such content and terminated some channels entirely.

Elsagate serves as a cautionary tale about the darker side of the internet and the need for vigilant oversight, especially when it comes to protecting young audiences. It highlights the responsibility of both platforms and parents to ensure the online content children consume is safe and age-appropriate. The case also underscores the challenges associated with regulating and policing content in the digital age, where anyone can upload content with ease.

In summary, the children of the 90s benefited from engaging, interactive CD-ROM games that nurtured critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Today’s children, on the other hand, have access to a wider variety of educational resources through iPads and online platforms. However, the ease of access also presents challenges related to overstimulation and passive consumption. Striking a balance is crucial, and parents and caregivers must oversee and curate the content their children consume. Elsagate was a disturbing trend that brought to light some of the dangers of the digital age, particularly concerning the content that reaches children on platforms like YouTube. While progress has been made in addressing the issue, it remains a stark reminder of the importance of vigilance and responsible content creation and moderation on the internet.

Technology has evolved, and its impact is not inherently good or bad. Instead, it depends on how it’s used and managed. Rather than making sweeping judgments, we must consider the specific circumstances and parental guidance that accompany technology use in any era.

I often wonder what it would be like to grow up in today’s generation. I know that might sound strange coming from a twenty-four-year-old, but the idea of children having the world at their fingertips is both awe-inspiring and worrisome. Back in my day, we occasionally sneaked into chatrooms and online forums, but today, the popularity of Instagram and TikTok genuinely concerns me.

Social media was not a thing when I was a child. Yes, there were platforms like Facebook and LiveJournal, but in the grand scheme of things, they didn’t collect your personal data to create algorithms that kept you hooked to these apps. When I was a child, I sat down in front of a computer and immersed myself in ToonTown, Siberia, Neopets, and MS Paint. As I grew into my own person, I explored Club Penguin and GaiaOnline, making (sometimes questionable) friends along the way.

In a world where technology continues to advance, our experiences and memories shape our perspectives. I often wonder what it would be like to grow up in today’s generation. Though I may express concerns about the impact of social media, it’s essential to remember that the digital landscape, much like the CD-ROM games of my childhood, isn’t inherently good or bad. It’s a tool, a canvas, and a medium. What matters most is how we use it, guide our children through it, and adapt to the ever-changing technological landscape.

The thread that connects generations is our desire to see our children thrive, to equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to navigate an evolving world. As we navigate the complexities of technology, we learn that the magic of being a child, whether sitting in front of a computer screen or an iPad, remains a constant, reminding us of the importance of preserving the innocence and curiosity of youth.

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