NL “Gouden @penstaart”
In the Netherlands we have a competition for the best qualified website
for children which is named “ the golden monkey tail competition”. In
Dutch the at sign is called monkey tail.
Together with Stichting Mijn Kind Online (Foundation My Child Online),
which started the competition in 2007, we have added two important
aims to the election:
we want to stimulate online craftsmanship
prime a discussion about quality between parents, children and media
Meanwhile the message is beginning to sink in that children need
guidance on the internet. Not only to prevent risks, but particularly to tell
them where to go for interesting, attractive and bona fide websites,
tailored to and suitable for them. The question is then raised: where do
we have to bring them?
We also oticed a growing request for information, not only with parents,
but with teachers and media producers as well, regarding criteria for
digital quality. How to decide what can be considered suitable for
Sheet gouden apenstaart
The Dutch Jury uses a set of described quality criteria summed up as:
attractiveness, trustworthiness and user friendliness.
These criteria were set up in 2007 by professionals in the field of children
and media, representing amongst others
a Dutch public broadcasters children’s television,
a usability agency,
the Dutch Youth Institute
an NGO called Parents Online.
Together they formed the first jury.
Last year saw the third edition of the Golden Monkey tail award. The
event has seen a growing impact over the years and more and more
website developers have been entering the competition.
The jury was very pleased with the number of entries in 2010. About ten
of the entries in each category immediately drew attention; apparently
quality is getting easier to recognize. Nevertheless there has been a lot
of talk about numerous websites.
Fortunately we didn’t have to pick just one winner, as this would have
proven to be very difficult. We could leave that decision to the general
public, as the website with the highest content quality level is selected by
the public. The Golden Monkey Tail is after all a public prize.
A lot of votes have been cast on the website. In schools a lot of children
have been actively working with the ‘Stars are dancing on the Site’
lessons, which have been developed by us for this specific purpose. In
this lesson they could find out the difficulties of being a juror themselves.
Fun is a very important factor for a website, for children probably the
most important factor of them all.
Nevertheless we use more criteria to select quality. They can be easily
imagined: attractiveness (fun factor), trustworthiness and user
I would like to focus briefly on the trustworthiness criteria. In my opinion
this is the least tangible of all for children. But if we ask children: “have
you ever been in contact with the developers of a website?”, it becomes
more clear. And on asking “If you send e-mail to a website, do you get a
reply?”, we are certain that they will all reply negatively.
Website developers not only have a responsibility for their behavior
towards children on the front of their platforms, but also for their activities
behind the scenes.
Specific items we believe to be important are visitors questions. Does
every question receive an answer, within a reasonable timeframe?
To test this, the jury has send the same question: “How long does your
website exist already?” to the entered websites. Not a question to cause
But children do tend to ask questions that are not always relevant in the
perspective of adults. Do they get an answer? Who reads and replies to
the questions? You never know, in between all the questions about
school materials, there might be a cry for help of a desperate child with a
big problem, turning to its favorite website…
The reactions widely varied. Some of the websites responded very
promptly and most of the reactions were very friendly, but on a striking
number of occasions no answer was received at all.
The jury has set up the criterion trustworthiness with the demand that an
answer had to be received within two days of the question. But this
seemed pretty farfetched for from reality! With this message we send the
website developers home: Better luck next year…
For the award in the category ‘Made by Children’ the following can be
It was immediately clear to the jury that a lot of talented Dutch
comedians have popped up on the internet. And video is widely popular.
Nevertheless there is still a wide quality gap between the numerous
thematically set up websites, actually being schoolwork on the internet,
and the creative children that have been developing based on their own
ideas, usually together with one or more friends. This last category
appeared far more attractive.
The winner is a website by Wilma Westenberg, which looked far from
sophisticated at first glance. Wilma was born with a type of cancer
causing a tumor in her cheek, which won’t disappear. She has set up a
website about this disease – of which doctors are guessing the exact
cause – but mainly about her own life. Not light hearted, but still very
accessible and clickable. Fifteen year old Wilma not only made some
very good decision on the structure of her website, but knows how to
write: in her brief, almost business like style, she raises the curiosity of
the reader who quickly wants to know more about the girl behind the
Sheet website Wilma Westenberg
Regarding the award in the ‘Made by Adults’ category I want to briefly
look at a number of nominated websites, indicating what we were
First there is the QiGame, a website by the Tropical museum, supporting
an exhibition on China. A beautiful, innovative website. Or is it a game?
With regards to content and perception, the Jury simply loved it: a very
complete symbiosis of content, perception and information. Yet there
was criticism as well, especially on user friendliness issues. The website
opened full screen, not leaving an option to close the site. Site navigation
was not always clear and downloading sometimes lasted ages: which is
something important as most children don’t work with sophisticated
equipment at home. Another missing item was the parental information.
Nevertheless the website was nominated, as it is enriching the visit to the
exhibition and forms a great advert for the exhibition as such. An
example for other musea!
The Jeugdjournaal Dutch Youth News on TV website also raised
discussion. For children looking for news, this is the place to be.
Anything you want to find, can be found. The latest news and
background. The website provides exactly what it was intended for, looks
attractive and is user friendly. However, not everybody likes the fact that
the latest video starts to play on entering the page. No parental
guidelines can be found on the website and the jury was unable to find
an age classification..
About something as simple as Nijntjes (Miffy) website, the jury
wholeheartedly agreed: within its class this is a beautiful example,
perfectly fitting to the needs and skills of the youngest. No excessive
commercial messages and a symbol driven navigation for kids, with text
alternatives for parents. This website unfortunately wouldn’t qualify for
the European competition as its targeted age group is too Young to
Finally a ‘classic’ was nominated: the website of the long time hero
SpongeBob Squarepants. Whether you like this sponge or not, his
website meets all needs that can be set: sparkling and filled with
activities, and 100% SpongeBob! Some jurors found the advertisements
a bit to prominent. And the targeted age group of the website? Or is
SpongeBob a friend to all ages, just like Donald Duck? The jury made a
big compliment to all Nickelodeon websites. Not only did they have the
best parental information, they all consisted of a specifically set up
privacy statement as well.
With this Dutch example we hope to have convinced you of the
importance and impact of a national competition of good quality content
for children. A lot of good stuff is out there on the internet, but parents
and children definitely can use some help to find it!
We are very pleased with the fact that the European Commission has
decided to set up a European Competition. This will most definitely
enhance the importance and awareness of our national competition.