- The Washington Times - Monday, July 13, 2009

NEW YORK | Young children are getting online at a faster rate than their parents and older siblings.

A new study from Nielsen Online found that nearly 16 million U.S. children ages 2 to 11 were online in May. They made up about 9.5 percent of Internet users.

The youngest of the set — 2, 3 and 4-year-olds — probably aren’t yet updating their Twitter accounts with 140-character messages or posting quiz results to Facebook. Rather, they are sitting in a parent’s lap in front of a computer, being exposed to the Internet that way, said Peter Grunwald, president of Grunwald Associates LLC, which specializes in researching children and technology.

In the past five years, Nielsen said, the number of youth online has grown by 18 percent, compared with just a 10 percent growth among all Internet users. This growth comes as the total number of U.S. children under 14 is declining.

In all, the time children spend online grew 63 percent in the past five years, from nearly 7 hours in May 2004 to more than 11 hours online this past May.

Nielsen also found that boys spent 7 percent more time online than girls but that girls viewed 9 percent more Web pages than boys in May 2009. Mr. Grunwald said children are also beginning to produce their own content rather than use the Web as a passive viewer.

Gundam robot turns 30 this year

TOKYO | Japan’s most popular robot animation, Gundam, turns 30 this year, and the creator of the anime series says the times have caught up with the futuristic show launched in the late 1970s.

“Gundam has presented many propositions that we face today in the real world,” said Yoshiyuki Tomino, the TV show’s executive director. “It will certainly live on for many years to come, perhaps another 50 years.”

The animated science-fiction series “Mobile Suit Gundam” first aired in 1979. It was set 100 years in the future amid a space war between the Earth Federation and hostile space colonies. The show’s popularity quickly skyrocketed, and further Gundam series, comic books, video games and films were spun off.

“Gundam reminded viewers and fans of the potential power of humans and encouraged them not to lose hope,” Mr. Tomino said.

To mark the 30th anniversary of Gundam’s launch, a massive replica of the robot is being erected at Tokyo’s Odaiba seaside park. It is scheduled to be unveiled Saturday and can be viewed until Aug. 31 — part of Gundam’s birthday celebrations.

Mr. Tomino, speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo on Tuesday, said he was initially against the idea of building a 60-foot-high Gundam because he thought it would look cheap. But he later agreed with its construction.

“When I saw it, it was so powerful. Its toylike color was so peaceful. To me it was the color of hope, not a weapon,” Mr. Tomino said.

In Japan, it’s not just animation and video game fans who appreciate Gundam’s legacy. Scientific researchers in the country also see the character as a source of inspiration. Academics have established the International Gundam Society to bring various research disciplines together.

“Gundam is not just an animation or a robot. It’s much deeper than that,” Mr. Tomino said. “Gundam is quite awesome, and that’s why I say there is no comparison.”

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