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What Was Piki Kids Thinking?

| 8 Comments

I’ve posted before, not very enthusiastically, about an online comic-creator called Piki Kids.

Now, instead of being unenthusiastic, I’m downright negative. Kate Ahern recently wrote in her fine blog Teaching Learners With Multiple Needs about the site naming their “Coolest Comic” (on their home page, no less) one that uses the insulting term “retards.” She emailed them about it, but it’s still up as I write this post.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

8 Comments

  1. Larry, while you’re entitled to your opinions, I feel I should address some inaccuracies and/or misleading statements in your post.

    You mention ‘the site’ has ‘named’ the offending comic the “coolest comic”, implying that the site owners have some input in the process. Being judged “coolest” is based on a number of factors; the most important of which is community input ie. via a voting process. The “coolest comic” process is a solely automatic one.

    The offending comic was neither created nor endorsed by Pikikids outside of the aforementioned automated process and being hosted on the Pikikids website. The nature of the site’s content is somewhat amorphous; rather than pre-moderating content, all content is initially allowed. To combat this, *any* content may be flagged by *any* user and is immediately removed.

    If content is removed maliciously, it may be reinstated by Pikikids admin. In this instance, we have an odd situation: a comic that was deemed funny or interesting, or well done, and hence popular by the site’s audience, yet offensive and derogatory to a minority group.

    What I find interesting about all this is that although Kate Ahern was outraged enough to email Pikikids, blog about it and tell X number of her friends to blacklist us, she could have simply (and easily) removed the content herself immediately.

    Just like we did when it was brought to our attention.

  2. Jonathan,

    The “coolest comic” may have been determined by an automatic voting process. However, it was the major image on your home page for a substantial period of time. It’s difficult for me to believe that no staff at Piki Kids noticed it and found it inappropriate, and it’s concerning to me that it took Kate’s action to have it removed.

    I’d be a little more understanding of your explanation if your site was not specifically designed for, and targeting, children. It seems to me that any website that focuses on that audience, including my own, takes on a greater responsibility for content monitoring.

    In order for a user to flag content for removal on your site, a user has to be registered and logged-in. For reasons I’ve shared above, I can certainly understand Kate’s reaction of not wanting to do either and, instead, to take the action that she did.

    Larry

  3. “It’s difficult for me to believe that no staff at Piki Kids noticed it and found it inappropriate”

    Why? Because, it’s difficult to imagine a world beyond American shores?

    Pikikids is run out of Australia. We received word of the offending comic at 9am local time and immediately removed the offending comic and responded to the complaint.

    “In order for a user to flag content for removal on your site, a user has to be registered and logged-in. For reasons I’ve shared above, I can certainly understand Kate’s reaction of not wanting to do either and, instead, to take the action that she did.”

    Let me understand this: Kate Ahern is content to peruse the site, criticise the created content (not to mention the motives) of a *child* and run what amounts to a witch-hunt against our application without even becoming a member? And you’re condoning this?

  4. You are totally right Larry. I was in the middle of teaching a class, with 27 teachers in front of me and only an hour left to show them the best of web 2.0. There was no time to create an account at PikiKids, log in and flag an offensive comic. No only that, but it is not my job to monitor PikiKids for offensive comics. PikiKids, being for kids, needs to do that for themselves. Otherwise they aren’t really for kids, are they?

  5. Jonathan,

    It seems to me your comment, tone, and attitude speak for themselves, so I don’t feel a need to specifically respond to them.

    I wonder, though, if instead of the kind of comments you sent to Kate and me, if another option might have been something like:

    “You’re right, we blew it, and people have a perfect right to be upset. We’re going to focus on developing a more effective way to monitor content, and also figure out if there’s some way we can use this incident as an opportunity to help the children who use our service to see how this word is offensive. We understand why you would not want to check-out our site again, but I hope you’ll give us a second chance after you see that we can learn from our mistakes and that we welcome critique.”

    Larry

  6. “A minority group” finding Retard offensive is like saying “a minority group” might find N–ger offensive (as stated elsewhere). Surely this software should be set to vet certain words and not allow them in the first place if it’s for kids? A pretty simple bit of code. Can’t knock them for taking it off line though.

  7. Like Kate, Larry, and other edubloggers, I often recommend websites that provide useful tools for teaching and learning. I can only imagine what Kate must have felt when she was sharing the PikiKids website!

    What transpired at Piki Kids was not a good thing. Most likely it could have been prevented early on.

    Unfortunately, when child-oriented websites allow this sort of thing to happen, K-12 administrators react by block access to more websites.

    I don’t want websites geared for children blocked. I expect child-oriented websites to ensure that the content is kid-friendly, gossip & bully-free.

  8. Yay, advocacy! I’ve been reading/checking both Kate’s and your blogs daily for over 6 months now. I’ve appreciated the content and the insightful information shared that I wasn’t taught in my Master’s program and now my student’s have the opportunity to use it as I implement some of your suggestions. While I’ve been doing this though, I’ve never felt the urge to comment/respond like today! Kudos for your willingness to share on your blog and double kudos for responding to Piki Kids. Their defensive tone to you indicates that they understand what transpired was not appropriate. Let’s hope that they can get past who is to blame and ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
    Lisa-Ann

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