The independent experts who favorably evaluated Facebook's "Messenger Kids" were funded by Facebook

When Facebook rolled out "Messenger Kids," an IM product aimed at the 6-and-up set, it trumpeted that during the product's 18-month development cycle, it had been evaluated by child development experts in order to "safeguard" the young children it was targeting from harm. Read the rest

All's Faire in Middle School, a wonderful graphic novel about misfits, middle school and the middle ages

In 2016, Victoria Jamieson won the prestigious Newberry Honor Award for Roller Girl, a beautiful, moving, hilarious middle-grades graphic novel about friendship, girlhood and roller-derby; her 2017 followup All's Faire in Middle School will delight everyone who loved Roller Girl with a tale of Ren Faire, misfits, forgiveness and resilience.

Today's scares over smartphones are largely indistinguishable from yesterday's technology-driven moral panics

The "addictiveness of smartphones" is the latest technology moral panic, sending parents off with furrowed brows over whether theire kids' "brains are being rewired" by their phones. Read the rest

Flybrix: "rebuildable, crash-friendly drones" made from Lego

Flybrix kits allow you to turn a variety of Lego builds into little copter-drones that you can fly with an app or a Bluetooth joystick. Read the rest

Publicly funded private school creates "poor kids' playground" for kids whose parents wouldn't contribute to new playground equipment

Wednesdbury Oak Academy in the West Midlands is an "academy school," similar to a US charter school -- a publicly funded, privately operated school, which, theory goes, is able to "experiment" with new educational techniques, by deviating from the standard curriculum, rejecting students on the basis of selection criteria, and hiring teachers without formal qualifications. Read the rest

In California, an underground network of anti-vax doctors will write your kid a medical exemption letter to get them out of their vaccinations

After an outbreak of measles at Disneyland, California lawmakers had enough and passed SB277, banning kids from attending the state's schools unless they were fully vaccinated, and eliminating the waiver that let parents put their kids and others' in danger by signing a form stating that "immunization is contrary to my beliefs." Read the rest

A Sarlacc Pit baby-lounger: "allow the young one to snuggle in awesomeness without the fear of being digested over a thousand years!"

Bed Hog Shop, an Etsy seller from Bethlehem, PA, sells these custom made, $138 Sarlacc Pit baby loungers: " (would also likely be suitable for small pets): "Own your Star Wars fandom and allow the young one to snuggle in awesomeness without the fear of being digested over a thousand years!" (via Geeks Are Sexy) Read the rest

Snakes and Ladders can be analyzed by converting it to a Markov Chain

University of Washington data scientist Jake Vanderplas found himself trapped in an interminable series of Snakes and Ladders (AKA Chutes and Ladders) with his four-year-old and found himself thinking of how he could write a Python program to simulate and solve the game. Read the rest

Reviving my Christmas daddy-daughter podcast, with Poesy!

For nearly every year since my daughter Poesy was old enough to sing, we've recorded a Christmas podcast; but we missed it in 2016, due to the same factors that made the podcast itself dormant for a couple years -- my crazy busy schedule. Read the rest

In 1977, the Sex Pistols played their last UK gig: a Christmas show for children

In 1977, the Sex Pistols did a charity gig to raise money for the families of striking miners and firefighters in Huddersfield; the show started at lunchtime with an all-kid audience, and went on into the night, with adult punks showing up later in the day. Read the rest

Lumberjanes 7: friendship, courtship, gender conformity, and kittehs!

Lumberjanes is the hilarious, sweet, exciting series of graphic novels created by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis and Brooke Allen and energized by a roster of brilliant collaborators. The latest collection, Lumberjanes Vol. 7: A Bird's-Eye View, is a delight to read, brought a tear to my eye, and features intergenerational conflict, giant mythological birds, some great genderbending, and a whole menagerie of superpowered, supernatural kittens.

A dad looks at a year's worth of voice-searches by his five-year-old

Filmmaker Brett Gaylor (previously) realized that Google had saved all the voice-searches his five-year-old had done since he discovered the feature a year ago; in a charming little animated documentary, Brett muses on the ambivalent miracle of a child being able to do research on anything or anything (but while storing all their intellectual history with a giant, creepy multinational company). Read the rest

12 Michigan cops, looking for a 40-year-old white woman, draw guns on 11 year old black girl and put her in cuffs

A dozen Michigan cops from Grand Rapids broke into a family home and rushed an 11 year old black girl, pointing guns at her and cuffing her while her terrified mother begged them not to shoot her. Read the rest

Helping kids play with danger: crowdfunding a log-splitter, designed for children

Risky play is good for kids: it lets them test their boundaries in an exhilarating, vivid way -- and it's been all but entirely engineered out of contemporary child-rearing. Read the rest

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (Now with Extra Monsters): At Least One Monster Per Paragraph! This Is Our Guarantee!

Both of my kids, several years apart, were assigned Frankenstein in high school. Both were excited to dig in, based only on what they knew of Shelley's creation from pop osmosis. It was a book about the most famous monster of all. No, not Godzilla. Frankenstein! But for a horror novel, it sure featured a lot of travel writing. Both kids were bored and disappointed and, I suspect, might not have finished the book. The first time this happened, I just sort of nodded and waved them off, muttering the kind of vaguely commiserative thing a dad says when he just wants to get back to playing his videogames. But the second time around, I resolved to do something about it....

Hamster Princess: charming, funny, subversive middle-grades illustrated fantasy about a totally ass-kicking hamster princess

When Princess Harriet Hamsterbone was born, her royal parents naturally didn't invite the evil fairy, and so of course the evil fairy cursed her to prick herself on a hamster wheel on her twelfth birthday and die; and of course the three good fairies softened the curse -- and that's where things get really funny in Ursula Vernon's 2015 middle-grades fantasy Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible, the first in a wildly successful series.

#Elsagate: a subreddit that's sleuthing out the weird videos of Youtube Kids

Last month, James "New Aesthetic" Bridle published an influential essay exploring the prolific and disturbing video-spam that had come to dominate Youtube Kids, in which seemingly algorithmically generated videos endlessly recombined a handful of Disney characters and assorted others engaged in violent, abusive and even psychosexual conduct, over a soundtrack of a few repeated public-domain kids' songs, with all sorts of trickery designed to uprank them in Youtube's play-next, recommendation and search results -- keyword stuffing, duration-stretching and more. Read the rest

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