- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 13, 2015

Think of it as Netflix for kids: clean content with no violence, no swearing, no “adult situations.”

For frugal parents, Toon Goggles offers another attractive feature: It’s free.

“There weren’t many options in the area of over-the-top services for children,” said Stephen L. Hodge, CEO of Toon Goggles, which went online in 2011.

Toon Goggles offers child-safe content for children ages 3 to 12. Although other on-demand services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime also offer child-centric viewing material, Mr. Hodge said, the interfaces allow young consumers to simply toggle away from age-appropriate material to feast their eyes and brains on more adult content.

With Toon Goggles, there is no chance that a curious youngster might stumble upon content such as “Orange Is the New Black,” Mr. Hodge said.

Toon Goggles has none of that content,” he said, “so the entire platform from the ground up is designed for children to access appropriate content in a safe and easy manner. There’s no sex, there’s no violence, there’s no foul language — nothing like that is included in any of our content.”

Nor are there “classic” cartoons such as “Tom and Jerry” and “Looney Tunes.” Although the cat-and-mouse team and the likes of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck sired the humorous sensibilities of earlier generations, their undeniably violent escapades keep them off the list of Toon Goggles offerings.

“We review every bit of content there is so that certain things aren’t there. The ‘Tom and Jerry’-esque things that we grew up on, those will not be found on the service,” Mr. Hodge said. “We stay away from that, being that we don’t feel that those things are accepted by the majority of parents, especially in this day and age.”

Mr. Hodge has children of his own. He said his offspring, as well as those of many of his team members in Southern California, helped steer the movies, TV shows, interactive games and other content on the multimedia platform.

“I feel that children enjoy options,” Mr. Hodge said of his “customers.” “We have found that they consume our content, they play our games, they listen to our music, but they also enjoy playing ‘Minecraft’ or watching content on Disney XD.

“I think it’s very difficult to get a child to stick to any one thing. They’re not going to want to only play PlayStation; they’re going to play PlayStation as well as Xbox. As long as we are one of those points, and we have content that differs from what can be found on other platforms, I feel that we’ll always have something children will gravitate to.”

With today’s children often figuring out how to use tablets before they can speak, Mr. Hodge said, the graphic user interface for Toon Goggles allows children to easily find their favorite programs in a way that helps build computer interactivity skills for the digital age.

“We utilize big buttons, we utilize big pictures, that children can [decipher] based on sight as opposed to having to read,” Mr. Hodge said, which allows youngsters to navigate to sections primed for boys, girls, action, comedy, preschool and education without needing to even comprehend the words associated with them — for now.

“In this industry, user interface and user experience is something that is constantly evolving, so as we discover new methods of making it easier and simplified, we are constantly updating the service to implement those,” Mr. Hodge said.

A la carte entertainment

Mr. Hodge and his colleagues in the content delivery business are keenly aware that a personalized, online entertainment experience across multiple devices is the wave of the present.

“Children these days, they’re growing up in a world that’s delivered to them,” Mr. Hodge said, “and they expect for content to be delivered to them where they want and when they want.”

In addition to family-friendly fare, the network tries to make sure Toon Goggles ads are “safe” for the target demographics.

“Any parent could put Toon Goggles in front of their children and be sure that [it] has a safe, protected environment for children where even the ads are prescreened to make sure they’re appropriate for children,” said Mr. Hodge. “As far as the parents that do not like the idea of advertising we also have the option for them to become a paid subscriber that allows them to turn off advertising.”

Mr. Hodge foresees a day when children and other media consumers will order specific services, even entire networks, on an a la carte basis, “where people have the ability to select a very simple package of CBS, Showtime, Toon Goggles and CNN. And Toon Goggles knows that it is poised to be ready for that world when it comes.”

“We just plan to continue to grow and license content as well as develop our own content so that we can become a brand that is synonymous with providing safe, fun, educational children’s content to help us grow our platform.”

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