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Making ‘Cyberbabies’ is not child’s play

 

Just when I became complacent, when I thought I’d seen everything…along comes “Make a Baby,” the newest and most appalling link to date on MySpace and other social websites. Yes. You read that right. “Make a Baby.”

I was happily checking out new postings on a young relative’s MySpace website when I stumbled upon this program, colorful centered on his page.  This application, though “not developed by MySpace,” is accessed through and used onMySpace, which should make it not just a parental freak out but a serious MySpace concern. Look up “Make a Baby” in search mode and you’ll find a blurb that says “Make babies [plural] with your friends. Clink the link below to start.” The site is run by Sibblingz and the link is http://www.bebo.com/makeababy. It was created in November, 2007.

Here’s how it works: You can, as a single person [read: child] or in tandem with any and as many friends as you choose, opt to have a child, one that emerges on your website at about kindergarten age [which is scribed on the schoolhouse behind the babies on the start-up page]. You can “genetically engineer” your child with the desired sex, hair color and “straight, wavy, curly” etc., skin color, eye color (reminiscent of the wide-eye paintings of the 70s), the shape of the smile… You can choose personality traits too. It’s akin to creating an avatar. (In researching this application, I created “Mimi,” pictured at left).

You pay for babies (the prices rises after the third child is created) and services for the care of these little cuties with these “baby bucks,” earned by things as innocuous as “logging in” for 100 points a day, reporting deadbeat parents of other babies, inviting relatives, issuing “mate” requests to friends you might want to produce a baby, and other options that include responding to “offers” issued by myofferpal, one of those advertising sites I universally block or delete from my computer.

These offers, which reward anything from 40 or 50 to as much as 2500 baby bucks based on your response to said multiple offers for assorted ring tones, PayPal, auto insurance quotes, jokes of the day, Coke and Pepsi surveys, Slot Machine secrets, and mobile cash. There are 5 pages of these ads with baby bucks points noted for each one. Most of the offer pay less than 100 baby bucks, while the care, amusement and feeding of the “baby” costs more, ergo, multiple trips to cyberads to rake up points.

Another dangerous option comes at the very beginning of this babymaking process; it is a request for your e-mail password with the seemingly innocuous intent of finding friends to share in your procreative activities. That potentially dangerous request has been turning up on a number of websites lately, and both children and adults need to be extra vigilant and NEVER GIVE OUT PASSWORDS or access to e-mail addresses and therefore address books.

You can spend your web-based baby bucks on food, fun or health care. Giving away your unwanted baby when you are bored with it costs 300 baby bucks. Or if you are opting out of  the daily care and feeding of your baby, you can snap that little one into “doll mode” and turn off your responsibility. When you earn 1000 baby bucks you can upgrade your baby to “an older age level.” The application that appears on your page shows how effective you are at child care, using a graph to chart good and bad parenting.

What is wrong with this picture? What were they thinking?

These Saturday-morning-cartoon caricatures of very young children appeal to very young children and young adolescents. They are cute. But the implications of this site are not cute; they are hawking baby-making andd making the very real problem of teen pregnancy and all of its ramifications into a game, desensitizing children to the realities of having children. the option to turn your baby
“to doll mode” says it all. It doesnt work that way in real life. To have children and adolescents seeking out cybermates to have babies is obscene.

I was aggravated by the recent trend on some social websites to “send your friend a drink” gimmick. I was irritated by the “buy a friend gimmick” now used on both My Yearbook and MySpace, offended by the concept of buying and selling people. Now I’ve stumbled on this baby-making game and my sense of humor is completely gone.

Call me old-fashioned or outdated and you may be right. But I see younger and younger children acting older and older too soon, spurred on by a youth centered, sex centered media, being pushed into adulthood before they’ve had a chance to be children.

It’s not that the characters aren’t aren’t comic book cute, or fun to dress up; many of us did that with dolls when when were young. But children (including adolescents and young teens) are impressionable. It is the idea, the implication of having a young child or adolescent lured into this simulated random cyber-parenting and its distorted take oo having and raising children, the diminishing of the responsibility, the disregard and whim with which this cyberchild can be made and be disposed of when it becomes inconvenient, that appalls me.  

It’s only a game, you may say. And it is. But it is not “cute.” It is not innocent. If you read between the lines it is about values, attitudes, or the lack thereof, and how much commercial profit can come out of this questionable children’s game. As a grandparent, I try to be vigilant, which is how I stumbled onto this. If I still had young children, I would have no choice but to be both vigilant and unfraid to to use the uninstall/delete button.

 


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One Response to “Making ‘Cyberbabies’ is not child’s play”

  1. latsyrcatek Says:
    October 30th, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Hi, I just finished reading this article, and I felt a need to reply because not only were a lot of your facts wrong, you are totally perceiving the wrong way.

    I use this application daily on facebook, I have 47 babies. All my kids have second parents, and we have fun dressing the kids, and feeding them items to raise their growth scores to make them grow.

    Originaly there was only one age level, preschool, and you could not feed the children, they were simply for dress-up only. This was back in September of 2007. Gradually they started adding features to the kids due to a lack of interest from people, and they came out with the kindergarten age.

    To go from Preschool to Kindergarten you need
    over 1000GP (growth points)

    In the beginning of August they came out with Lower Elementary, which you need a growth score above 6000.

    I am 17 years old, and I have been playing this since I was 16. I really enjoy this application, and I have met a lot of cool people through the application.

    This application does not encourage teen pregnancy, in fact, there are quite a bit of adults, that use this application. I enjoy making babies with my friends, because its always fun to see what you end up with.

    They do not have personalities that are built in, that is strictly up to the user to fill out.

    and on another note….

    Teen pregnancy is everywhere, and it has been that way long before this application surfaced. My first year of high school, at least 20 girls in my grade became pregnant, and no, it wasn’t a whoopsie. My friends wanted kids, and that was that.

    If anything this application is similar to health class where the teacher assigns you a partner and you have to look after the baby.

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