Hollow Tree Ventures parenting humor
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The Trouble With the Innerwebs

Some of you may remember a few weeks ago when Jake's touch-screen tablet broke, and he was all weepy and heartbroken.  Well, naturally Gran couldn't let him suffer like that since he's normally so responsible, so the tablet was replaced (I know, we should all have a Gran to spoil us like that).  We couldn't quite tell if he was excited about it...

He continues to love that thing like a long-lost child, and spends a good deal of time collecting and hoarding apps - probably more time than a responsible parent should allow, but we won't get into that.  It's not the apps and games I'm worried about (although I still can't quite figure out why anyone would bother to develop an app that does nothing but make belching noises every time you touch the screen) - what I'm having a bit of trouble with is YouTube.

Umm, at least they're playing quietly...?

Most of the time what they choose to watch is fine, but my main beef lies with Fred videos.  Haven't heard of them?  Then count yourself lucky and please, for the love of God, don't look them up - Fred videos have been scientifically proven to reduce the viewer's IQ at a rate of over 10 points per minute.  If you can manage to watch Fred videos for an uninterrupted hour without gouging your own eyes out, your brain will have completely turned to jelly.

For whatever reason, kids seem to find Fred to be the most hilarious thing since the invention of hilarity.  However, in reality Fred is a whiny, hyperactive 15-year-old spastic social reject, who found fame on YouTube and parlayed his inexplicable popularity into a few television appearances.  He eventually even got a movie deal, and I think Variety's review of it sums Fred up best.
Sounding like a cross between SpongeBob SquarePants and Alvin the Chipmunk, Fred shrieks, squeals and babbles incessantly, reaching levels of insufferable dorkiness that couldn't be matched by Pee-wee Herman, Napoleon Dynamite and Steve Urkel combined.
Yes, that's him in a nutshell.  But the main trouble with Fred is that, while (to adults) he's more annoying than swimming across a pool of mosquitoes, he's not violent or vulgar and he doesn't really do anything dangerous that you'd worry about your kids emulating.  I know that sounds like a good thing, but the problem with it is that leaves me without a very solid reason to ban him from the house, other than the fact that he's a vapid, insipid time waster who makes my skin crawl worse than a rampant case of psoriasis.  But then again, Angry Birds isn't exactly mentally stimulating, either.  If the kids are having a good time, and it's not necessarily a bad influence, is their entertainment enough to override my peripheral irritation with Fred's general existence?  Come to think of it, I let my poor, defenseless baby  watch Yo Gabba Gabba on occasion, despite my obvious concern regarding its content, and who knows what kind of irreparable damage that's  doing.

So what I tried to do was distract them - they love to read, so I encouraged them to look up free books they could read together on the tablet.  Great idea, eh?  Don't get me wrong, I don't ordinarily just let them wander around willy-nilly on the innerwebs - I know about parental controls and all that.  But I think we can agree that you can't block everything - I mean, one time Jake and Gran were innocently searching a Popular Online Book Retailer and, hoping to find Hardy Boys and the like with a search of "boys' adventure," found a bunch of Heaving Bodice Novels instead.  Jake's old enough to use his judgement in most cases, and I trust him (and his overactive sense of propriety) to avoid most things he shouldn't see and hear when he encounters it accidentally, considering he gets a little freaked out over stuff like his teacher saying "crap."  Besides, they were only looking through the Book Apps, and plus my understanding is that, due to the fact that royalties no longer need to be paid to deceased folks, the majority of free books are The Harmless Classics.  Right off the bat, Jake was excited to find a Sherlock Holmes book.  Satisfied, I left the room, patting myself smugly on the back.

A while later I poked my head back in the room.  Zoe whirled around, wide-eyed and laughing, and declared, "We were looking at books and there were people with their arms like this [crosses her arms across her chest] but they were showing their butts, but then we just saw somebody who wasn't covered up and now I'm gonna have nightmares about boobies." Oh good.  So much for reading - I guess it's back to Fred videos.  Go ahead and chalk me up for another Mother of the Year Award.

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