Let’s run through a scenario – you’re at the grocery store, and your kid is going ape. You’re trying to find an empty isle so you can shake him (because we at 8BitDad don’t believe in hitting), but it’s Saturday and all the isles are packed. You start up a game on your chosen cellular device, and hand it to your child. It doesn’t matter if they know how to play Solitaire or not – it will keep him occupied for just enough time to — hey wait a second! He just called 911…
And somehow, with a toddler’s limited wingspan and strength, you can’t seem to reach the phone or wrestle it out of his hands once you do. And of course, the sounds of your child squealing and you yelling at him makes it sound like a violent attack. The cops are dispatched, you’re arrested, your child is taken from you and held in Child Protective Services for up to 48 hours, where they are subjected to questioning and physical checks for abuse. You’re in jail until Monday morning, and you’re thinking that when you get out of jail, your wife is going to kill you. You get out of jail, and she actually does kill you. She goes to jail, your child is taken away again, and put in foster care. Your child grows up without a mother or father, transferring from foster house to foster house until he’s 18, where he’s emancipated to the streets. He takes up heroin, and has to commit violent acts to get money to pay for his habit. He dies from an overdose in an alley. All because you let him play Solitaire in the grocery store. Way to not think things through.
Zoodles is like an alternate-universe theoretical time machine that undoes all of this unspeakable evil before it happens.
Actually, Zoodles is a kid-friendly browser (and now Android app) that locks your child into itself and away from your important data, phone stuff and pornography. I’m assuming you have pornography.
Zoodles was born after folk hero Mark Williamson saw his 4 year-old daughter unable to use his computer. He wondered why children were shoved in front of a computer and forced to adapt to its level instead of the other way around. He talked to other parents and found that parents wanted their children to be able to use the computer and internet, but were terrified by the content out there (and who wouldn’t be?). And without a central application that tied all of the child-friendly websites and content together, parents didn’t have the time to go and seek it out. And of course, even if a parent could sit a kid down on a website like PBS Kids, there was no guarantee the child wouldn’t click something that would redirect them to a world of boobies and Viagra.
That was all a longform way of saying that Mark Williamson took everything shiny and rainbowlike and put it in one place, so that your kid sees only what you want him or her to see. This is achieved using a “playground” interface, which acts like a sort of home screen and houses bookmarks and games for things that you, as the parent and administrator, allow him to see. And – in case you hate a certain cartoon or character that your child watches – you can turn that character off. Bye bye, Barney.
The best thing about Zoodles is that your computer or phone is now safe. Kids love to mash on keyboards, and that’s perfect for some programs, but on Windows machines, once you hit the Windows button, the Start menu pops up, and then you’re in a whole other world. On your iPhone (and most other phones), once you press the Home button, you’re out of that program (and potentially into the dialer). Zoodles lets you set options to lock the program so that the Windows key or Home button won’t work. This is especially good for the built-in Flash games, since again, at least on a Windows machine, you can be playing an immersive Flash game, but the second you hit the Windows button, you’re out of the browser and executing other programs.
Zoodles is FREE, and available right now for your Windows PC, Mac, and (just released) Android smartphone. iPhone and iPad apps are also in the works. If you want even more control over your interface, Zoodles offers monthly, biyearly and annual pricing, which gives you cool stuff like video mail, time limit settings, and an art studio for painting pictures. Not a real art studio.
There aren’t enough good things to say about a piece of software like this. Now that kids of all ages are interested in computers, and now that even your cellphone runs applications, there’s no excuse to be a parent and not have something like this. Well, there is an excuse – if you’re a moron, then I guess you get a hall pass. Otherwise, check out (at least) the free version of Zoodles for yourself and your family.