Cussing not allowed on the computer
My son was banned from a children’s Web site. It happened a few weeks ago, I am told. The ban was for 23 hours and 59 minutes.”He typed in a cuss,” his older brother said, adding, “because the computer wasn’t working right.” He shook his head in incredulity. “Does that make any sense?””The computer was spazzing!” Roy, then 10, confirmed, unrepentant. He added: “Hey, I was with my friends in my own igloo.”The Web site is called Club Penguin. Club Penguin is a virtual island resort for kids, who express themselves as penguins. It has restaurants, parties, dances, common meeting places, secret meeting places, a mountain, a mine within the mountain, a dock, and even gainful employment. Club Penguin is more complex than I can possibly tell you, especially in its purchasing opportunities.Each child has a penguin character and an account, fortunately virtual. (Club Penguin knows what not to do). On offer are endless varieties of clothing and hats, shoes, sunglasses, sports equipment and musical instruments. For their igloo abodes, children may buy tiki lamps, chairs, tables, fish tanks, carpet, fireplaces, sound systems, and even pets called puffles.”Mom, we’ve all been arrested,” Roy continued, adding, “That’s what we call it.” He reeled off the names of three peers also apprehended for language. Of one, whom we will call Timothy, he said, “Quite a few times!”I asked Timothy and he shyly acknowledged two bans.”Wolt444 was banned forever,” he said softly.”What?””Wolt444. Wolt isn’t my normal penguin. He’s just one I made.” Wolt, I could see, is an alter ego. I could use a Wolt.Club Penguin, for us, began months ago, with excited buzz. Boys who had just skied all day together would part with the words, “Meet you on the dock at 7:30!”Returning home, Roy would vanish downstairs, seeing which friends were online and shouting up their names to us in delight. Or he’d elaborate, “Mom! Chapin and both his sisters are in my house!”They’d type in words, which immediately appeared in speech bubbles on the screen.”Wot up?” they’d say.”Noth’n.””We write short,” Roy told me. “Cool talk.”Roy was able to visit, even inhabit a penguin, for free, but only members could buy clothes. He begged me for membership, for $6 a month, and once when he had a fever of 104.5 I acceded. He felt better immediately.Roy was given a small stake of “coins” at the outset (with which he bought Ugg boots and, for some reason, a sombrero) and opportunities to earn more. Roy’s particular skill apparently lies in making pizzas. A cash register chinged as he took orders and added items – sauce and seaweed, squid and shrimp – to penguin pizza on a zippy conveyor belt. When working accurately, he earned tips.He bought a bathrobe, a wool hat, a scarf, two hoodies, a jersey and night-vision goggles. He amassed lists of penguin friends and girlfriends.”How do you know they’re your girlfriends?” I asked.”Because you make them be your girlfriend,” he said impatiently.He added of one, “She’s hosting a little party.”Once he logged off saying casually, “I was just talking to a 13-year-old girl, and went to her house and she made me coffee!”Months passed, marked by freshening catalogs of clothing, furniture and even flooring. Did I mention the island also has a sports shop?Roy learned computer skills, and acquisitiveness. He gained a larger igloo, hardwood floors; electric and acoustic guitars, a violin, a snare drum, a tuba; dress shoes, skate shoes, slippers and six pages worth of clothing including three letter jackets, a wetsuit, and both red and blue board shorts. His igloo gained couches, rugs, easy chairs, “chill” music, a basketball hoop, an urn, a coffee table, potted trees and plants, a barbecue, fruit bowl, and decorative porthole and ship’s wheel.They can ban him. But he’ll keep coming back for more.Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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