HBO, the cable programming giant, has entered into the children's on-line entertainment market with a site that, strangely enough, encourages children to shut down the computer sometimes and turn off the television to partake in projects, experiments and after-school fun.
SITE ADDRESS: www.hbo4kids.com
CREATOR: Home Box Office, the TV programming division of Time Warner Entertainment Co.
CREATOR QUOTABLE: "Our goal for this site was to create a stimulating and interactive place for kids that wasn't solely focused on TV programming," says Dolores Morris, vice president of HBO Family channel. "We think kids will like the content while their parents will like the non-commercial and educational aspects of the site."
WORD FROM THE WEBWISE: This site is designed for 6- to 12-year-olds and provides four areas of intelligent play and learning: "Wacky Wu," "Aaww Man!" "Wuz Up?" and "D.I.Y." (Do It Yourself). These areas concentrate on reading, communication and physical activities.
For example, in "Wacky Wu's Time Warp" (a reading adventure through time), visitors take part in the experience by choosing plot twists so that stories conclude differently with every visit.
In addition, "Wacky Wu" is a place to become an on-line Dr. Frankenstein when piecing together an action hero in "Super!" or a mythical beast within the "Cyber Safari." Users can color their creations on screen or print them out as a line drawing to be colored with crayons or markers away from the computer.
The "Day Tripper" area introduces children to different sports and outdoor events, such as luge sledding or diving for sharks, through video and audio files. QuickTime and Vivo Video plug-ins are required. Both downloads are free and fairly easy to install, though downloading QuickTime was not exactly quick. Parents might want to take care of this requirement before youngsters visit the area.
Those heavy with homework assignments will appreciate the "Aaww Man!" area that contains links to other Web sites on the "Homework S.O.S." page. Resources include on-line encyclopedias, exam and study-skill sites, and history, math and geography help.
A very important part of "Aaww Man!" is "It's the Law." Parents and children should sit down to read and discuss the HBO4Kids Code of Conduct governing the use and submission of original material to the site before venturing into the "Wuz Up?" section.
In "Wuz Up?" visitors create and submit their ideas to the site through pages such as "The Big Deal. …