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Juryrapport g@ tbv (Marjolijn Bonthuis)

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  • 1. 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 and prime a discussion about quality between parents, children and media makers. 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 children? 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 Sanoma Publishers, a Dutch public broadcasters children’s television, a usability agency, the Dutch Youth Institute and an NGO called Parents Online. Together they formed the first jury.
  • 2. 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 friendliness. 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 major impact. 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…
  • 3. 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 said: 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 website. 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 focusing on. 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
  • 4. 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! Sheet Qigame 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.. Sheet Jeugdjournaal 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 enter. Sheet Nijntje.nl 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.
  • 5. Sheet Spongebob.nl 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. Thank you!