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Nearly 300 million kids are missing school worldwide because of the coronavirus outbreak, including some 54 million in the U.S. alone. That’s left parents scrambling for resources to help continue their children’s education, often while also working from home themselves — an almost insurmountable challenge. Today, the nonprofit media organization Common Sense is launching a site to help parents. Called Wide Open School (, it combines in one place the best educational resources for publishers, nonprofits and education companies.

At launch, this free resource includes content from the American Federation of Teachers, Amplify, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Head Start, Khan Academy, National Geographic, Noggin, PBS, Scholastic, Sesame Workshop, Time for Kids, XQ Institute and even YouTube.

All the content offered through Wide Open School is freely available.

But it’s not just a list of helpful websites. Instead, Wide Open School actually programs a full school day for the child by grade level, to ensure they’re getting a mix of educational material that aligns with what their day would have been when attending school.

For example, a fourth grader may be pointed to Prodigy’s math games, YouTube art tutorials and Khan Academy reading resources in the morning, then instructed to read a book, draw or listen to music during their screen-free lunch break. In the afternoon, they may take social studies via Google Earth, study science through Amplify and take P.E. by way of GoNoodle.

The site even suggests evening activities that can be done as a family, like bedtime reading or movies to stream, among other things.

In addition, Wide Open School offers a guide to getting started with learning at home, a collection of virtual field trips, a collection with resources for art and music and one with resources for emotional well-being — the latter especially critical at a time when anxiety levels are high among parents and kids alike.

There’s also a section dedicated to parents of children with special needs.

Everything is organized in a colorful grid, with picture images so it can be easily used by children on their own.

For struggling parents new to homeschooling, a resource like this will likely be welcome.

However, Common Sense is opening up the tools to educators, as well. Though many U.S. school systems already offer their students a set of digital resources through direct relationships with educational companies, like Nat Geo or Scholastic, those resources were typically meant to supplement the education the child was receiving at school, not replace it. There may still be large holes in the child’s education that aren’t being addressed.

Common Sense says the new Wide Open School website has been curated for educational quality.

This taps into the organization’s key strength, as its focus has always been on promoting safe technology and media for children. Today, its main website is known for its trusted reviews of TV, movies, books, games and apps that help parents understand a given piece of content’s age-appropriateness, as well as concerns with the title in question, if any.

To create the new Wide Open School, Common Sense was able to tap into its existing understanding of the educational media available for families, and then organize it by grade level.

Common Sense says it also worked with key distribution and technology partners Apple, Google, Zoom, Comcast and Salesforce, which have also suggested tools and resources, to ensure they’re aware of and can access the content.

“The coronavirus pandemic has elevated the need for quality learning materials all in one place for families and educators, and Common Sense is proud that trusted experts and partners have joined together to launch Wide Open School so quickly,” said James P. Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense, in a statement about the launch.

“Many organizations have moved swiftly to respond to this crisis with incredible resources and special offers for educators and families. We wanted to use our nearly 20 years of experience as an expert reviewer and curator to create the go-to source of quality content that will provide educators with the support they need to shift to remote teaching and a one-stop, trusted place for families to engage kids who are now learning from home,” he added.

Though many U.S. schools are moving toward remote learning, some aren’t yet ready or fully rolled out. And even those schools that have shifted online aren’t necessarily programming the equivalent of a full school day for the students. That can be difficult for parents working from home, as kids complete their more limited educational activities, then look to be entertained. Left on their own, that’s meant full days of gaming or bingeing YouTube — much to the exacerbation of parents who don’t consider coronavirus cancellations just an early start to summer break.

Wide Open School can supplement whatever remote learning is taking place, as well, or can be used by teachers who are creating online lessons for the first time.

The new website launched publicly today, but is still considered a beta — meaning it’s not the final product.

Common Sense is still working to expand the site and is forging additional educational partnerships with media and education companies, nonprofits and teachers in order to add more content, it says.

The site will be available across platforms, including mobile, desktop and TV, in order to allow everyone — even low-income families — to access its resources.

It’s working to add other resources to aid low-income families as well, including information about accessing free or discounted broadband services, as well as resources for more urgent needs to address health, hunger, shelter and psychological needs.

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Going to meet Santa at the mall is a ritual that some love and some hate, but most bravely do it anyway at some point. To set your kids on Santa’s lap and get that adorable photo that you can put in your Christmas cards to satisfy the grandparents, you have to stand in line with Christmas music on repeat and dozens of other families in the same situation while the kids are sick and tired of waiting (or literally sick.) But it’s probably nothing compared to what the job is like for the man himself.

Anyone who puts on a red velvet suit and plays the beloved role of Father Christmas must be a kind and patient soul indeed. You would have to be in order to spread Christmas magic to hundreds of kids in a row, including taming the ones who would rather be anywhere else. But here are some situations that probably weren’t in the job description, from people bringing their four-legged children to sit on Santa’s lap, to grown-ups who just love Christmas so much that they keep coming back year after year.

See how professional Santa performers deal with the unexpected in these pictures, and upvote your favorites! While you’re waiting for the big day, you can also look back on our lists of the best and worst Christmas decorations, and people whose Christmas wasn’t very merry.


While Waiting In Line To See Santa, This Baby Fell Asleep. When It Came Time For The Picture, Santa Told The Parents Not To Wake Him


I Took My Dog To Take A Christmas Picture With Santa And She Ate Him


My 92 Year Old Grandma Said She’s Never Been To See Santa. Change Of Plans This Christmas

Some things never change. That’s what some of these Santa performers must think when they get visitors who keep coming back even as they grow up. One pair of brothers has a whole slideshow of pictures with Santa over 30 years, eventually adding their own children to the picture!

Want to know another thing that never changes? A Canadian mall Santa who has been doing the job every Christmas season for 35 years says that although the types of presents that kids ask him for have changed with the introduction of more electronics, Legos are a classic that have stuck around.


My Santa Doesn’t Age (1997-2017)


So, My Dog Met Santa Claus


My Favorite Shot From Our Christmas Shoot This Year

Professional Santa performers⁠—and, yes, they say the job requires somebody who can put on a show⁠—who are really serious about their craft go to Santa training schools with whimsical names like “Northern Lights Santa Academy.” There, they learn not only lore about the role and how to accurately talk about reindeer, but the business practicals of self-promotion and getting private bookings.


Took The Kids To Meet Santa Yesterday And, As You Can See, It Went Amazing


My Friend Brought Her Dog To See Santa Recently


Mommy’s Lil Monster Meets Santa & Krampus

There’s also increasing demand for not just Santa performers, but also Mrs. Claus, say women who have stepped into the role in recent years. Maybe soon you’ll be able to choose which visitor from the North Pole you’ll want to take your kids to visit.


My Mom Said “Damn” In Front Of Santa. This Was The Reaction


Got A Pic With Santa… He Said I Was Too Big… We Compromised…


My Son Started To Cry When He Saw Santa, So I Decided It’d Be A Good Idea If We All Joined To

Performers say that while playing Santa pays well, it takes a large investment at the start for a quality costume. And, of course, a great love for Christmas spirit and children, not to mention a philosophy of kindness and wisdom that follows them all year round.


My Friends And I Got Our Picture Taken With Santa


Holiday Shopping Can Put A Smile On Even The Most Kvlt Person In Your Life! What’s Your Favorite Holiday Tradition?


My Dad Was Santa At Our Local Petsmart, Was Not Expecting This


Another Year, Another Photo With Santa

See Also on Bored Panda


This Woman Took Her Cats To A Department Store To Visit Santa And As You Can See It Went Quite Well


How Many Kids Do You See?


My Dad Is The Macy’s Santa In Seattle. Today He Got To Meet A Legend!


Nancy Reagan Sitting On Mr. T’s Lap

Mr. T was a surprise guest at the first day of the press tour of the White House Christmas Decorations.

She was standing next to him and my dad (who was friends with Nancy) said “How about sitting on his lap?”She looked at her press secretary for approval then said “Sure!” and sat down.

See Also on Bored Panda


What Could Possibly Go Wrong?


34 Years Photos With Santa – Annual Tradition


Santa Looking Like Hes Gonna Risk It All


Past Five Years Of Mall Santa Photos With My Brothers


Ho Ho Ho!


My Friend Is Santa At Bass Pro (Among Other Places). He Had An Unexpected Visitor


My 3 Month Old Son With A Look Of Shock Only He Could Pull Off At Being Sat On Santa’s Lap


My Mum Has Been Making Me Get A Santa Photo Every Year Since I Was Born. This Year I Had A Little Bit Of Fun With It

See Also on Bored Panda

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In a move to boost family subscriptions to its app, Spotify this morning announced the launch of a dedicated Kids application which allows children three and up to listen to their own music, both online and offline, as well as explore playlists and recommendations picked by experts, and more. The music selection is also filtered so songs won’t have explicit content.

The launch is a first in the online music streaming space, where kids on parents’ music plans typically sign in through the same app — just with a different login. But Spotify believes children deserve their own space, where the music they listen to is available in an ad-free environment, where they won’t accidentally encounter lyrics that parents disapprove of, and where content is hand-curated by editors.

Spotify Kids, essentially, is a set of hand-picked playlists across categories.


The app includes categories like Movies & TV, top hits, Activities (bedtime, homework, playtime, etc.), genres, seasonal, Spotify Originals, artist/groups, and Stories.

The playlists are all programmed by human editors, not algorithms, and are chosen by way of a set of guidelines about what’s appropriate for children.

The editors, Spotify says, have backgrounds from some of the most well-known brands in the children’s entertainment business, including Nickelodeon, Disney, Discovery Kids, Universal Pictures, Public Service (Sweden), and BookBeat (a family and kids-oriented audio streaming service).

The new app isn’t just for the preschool set. Instead, it can grow with the kids as they get older — but still aren’t ready for the parents’ application yet.


In the younger kids’ version, children can listen to things like singalongs, lullabies, and soundtracks aimed at little kids. Older users have access to tracks and playlists of their own, including some popular tracks, that are appropriate and relevant for their age group. Parents will select their child’s age group upon launch.

In time, Spotify will expand the app with more content — including stories, audiobooks, and podcasts — and build enhanced parental settings and controls that allow parents to customize the Kids app further.

The new app also looks nothing like the main app — it’s colorful and bright, and has a look and feel that varies by the kids’ age group. For example, the younger kids see artwork that’s softer and character-based, while older kids have a more detailed experience.


“Spotify is committed to giving billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by music and stories and we’re proud that this commitment now includes the next generation of audio listeners,” said Spotify’s Chief Premium Business Officer Alex Norström. “We are excited to be expanding the Spotify Premium Family experience with a dedicated app just for our youngest fans. Spotify Kids is a personalized world bursting with sound, shape and color, where our young listeners can begin a lifelong love of music and stories.”

The launch of the Kids app follows Spotify’s surprise earnings success this week, where it beat Wall St. estimates with net income of 241 million euros ($267.34 million), or 36 cents per share. Analysts had expected a loss of 29 cents per share.

The company also added 5 million new subscribers in the quarter to reach 113 million paying premium subscribers — up 26 million from the year-ago quarter.

Today, a Spotify Premium plan costs slightly more than a regular Premium account ($14.99 vs. $9.99 in the U.S., respectively). But many parents often just share their account with the whole family — often ruining their recommendations and special features, like Spotify Wrapped, along the way. A Kids app is a good incentive to convince customers to upgrade, as it’s not only solving those problems but also giving kids a safer, more curated experience within the larger music ecosystem.

There’s another incentive for Spotify to separate out Kids’ listening into its own space: targeted advertising. While the Premium experience has typically been ad-free, a new product lets artists buy a full-screen ad about their new music release and show it to interested users, based on listening history — even if they’re Premium subscribers.

This isn’t the first move Spotify has made in recent months to better cater to families. The company this summer launched a dedicated streaming hub in partnership with Disney, where families could find favorite songs, playlists and soundtracks. It also added parental controls to Premium Family accounts soon after, and launched a special “family mix” with songs everyone can agree on.

Spotify Kids is initially available in beta, while Spotify works to refine the experience based on additional insights gained from use as well as parentsfeedback. It requires a Premium Family plan to use.

The app is immediately available today in Ireland on iOS and Android, but is rolling out to all markets, the company says.

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When is the last time you met up with your best friend? For some of us, modern life is so busy that we sometimes forget about the people closest to us. Sometimes half a year goes by without seeing our pals, even though we think it’s been a few weeks, tops.

Children are always honest about their feelings — they do what their hearts tell them, and we can all stand to (re)learn something from them. A video of two ‘besties’ running towards each other and hugging it out has captured the internet’s heart because of how genuine the 2-year-olds’ love for one another is. Be prepared to go ‘aww’ because your heart will melt. Be sure to share this post with all your friends and family — they’ll thank you for it.

The video of two BFFs running towards each other captured the internet’s heart

The amazing video was shared by Michael Cisneros who is Maxwell’s father. Maxwell and his friend Finnegan couldn’t stand to be apart from each other for two days, which they obviously thought was far too long a time to spend without your BFF.

Besties Maxwell and Finnegan missed each other greatly after only two days

Cisneros told ABC News that the two boys are “inseparable” and have known each other for a year.

“When they are away from each other, they are always asking about one another,” Cisneros told the media. “They go to music class together, Dana Banana (a weekly music event) and they love to dance — both are excellent dancers.”

I’m going to call up all of my best friends and make plans to meet up with them this week. What about you? What do you think of Maxwell and Finnegan’s friendship? How long has it been since you’ve seen your best friend? Let us know in the comments below, and remember to share this post with your loved ones, so you can make their day!

People adored the video

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Ahead of the official announcement of an FTC settlement, which could force YouTube to direct under-13-year-old users to a separate experience for YouTube’s kid-friendly content, the company has quietly announced plans to launch its YouTube Kids service on the web. Previously, parents would have to download the YouTube Kids app to a mobile device in order to access the filtered version of YouTube.

By bringing YouTube Kids to the web, the company is prepared for the likely outcome of an FTC settlement that would require the company to implement an age-gate on its site, then redirect under-13-year-olds to a separate kid-friendly experience.

In addition, YouTube Kids is gaining a new filter, which will allow parents to set the content to being preschooler-appropriate.

The announcement, published to the YouTube Help forums, was first spotted by Android Police.

It’s unclear if YouTube was intentionally trying to keep these changes from being noticed by a larger audience (or the press) by publishing the news to a forum instead of its official YouTube blog. (The company tells us it publishes a lot of news on the forum site. Sure, okay. But with an FTC settlement looming, it seems an odd destination for such a key announcement.)

It’s also worth noting that, around the same time as the news was published, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki posted her quarterly update for YouTube creators.

The update is intended to keep creators abreast of what’s in store for YouTube and its community. But this quarter, her missive spoke solely about the value in being an open platform, and didn’t touch on anything related to kids content or the U.S. regulator’s investigation.

However, it’s precisely YouTube’s position on “openness” that concerns parents when it comes to their kids watching YouTube videos. The platform’s (almost) “anything goes” nature means kids can easily stumble upon content that’s too adult, controversial, hateful, fringe or offensive.

The YouTube Kids app is meant to offer a safer destination, but YouTube isn’t manually reviewing each video that finds its way there. That has led to inappropriate and disturbing content slipping through the cracks on numerous occasions, and eroding parents’ trust.


Because many parents don’t believe YouTube Kids’ algorithms can filter content appropriately, the company last fall introduced the ability for parents to whitelist specific videos or channels in the Kids app. It also rolled out a feature that customized the app’s content for YouTube’s older users, ages 8 through 12. This added gaming content and music videos.

Now, YouTube is further breaking into two parts its “Younger” content-level filter, which was previously 8 and under. Starting now, “Younger” applies to ages 5 through 7, while the new “Preschool” filter is for the age 4 and under group. The latter will focus on videos that promote “creativity, playfulness, learning, and exploration,” says YouTube.

Above: the content filter before

YouTube confirmed to TechCrunch that its forum announcement is accurate, but the company would not say when the YouTube Kids web version would go live, beyond “this week.”

The YouTube Kids changes are notable because they signal that YouTube is getting things in place before an FTC settlement announcement that will impact how the company handles content for kids and its continued use by young children.

It’s possible that YouTube will be fined by the FTC for its violations of COPPA, as (TikTok) was earlier this year. One report, citing unnamed sources, says the FTC’s YouTube settlement has, in fact, already been finalized and includes a multimillion-dollar fine.

YouTube will also likely be required to implement an age-gate on its site and in its apps that will direct under-13-year-olds to the YouTube Kids platform instead of YouTube proper. The settlement may additionally require YouTube to stop targeting ads on videos aimed at children, as has been reported by Bloomberg. 

We probably won’t see the FTC issuing a statement about its ruling ahead of this Labor Day weekend, but it may do so in advance of its October workshop focused on refining the COPPA regulation — an event that has the regulator looking for feedback on how to properly handle sites like YouTube.

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Every generation looks back at its youthful period with nostalgia; everything was better when we were kids and nobody can convince me otherwise! However, there’s something about my generation, the early millennials, that does make us special. We grew up in a time of unprecedented technological change; for example, we were born with the cassette, the CD came and went (don’t even get me started on the Minidisc), then it was Mp3, iTunes, and finally Spotify. All in the space of a few years!

The technology that kids now take for granted was refined over the years through our experiences. We eventually got the internet but we needed to wait for it to connect. We had phones, but they were connected to our houses until Nokia came along with SMS and snake. Oh, and we had something similar to Netflix too, but you had to go to rent a tape or DVD at the videostore. Looking back, these things might seem incredibly basic and inconvenient now, but we loved them! And I’ll take my Nirvana/Soundgarden/Faith No More mixtape over your Jonas Brothers Spotify playlist any day of the week…

We here at Bored Panda have created a list of all those ‘struggles’ that we had with technology back in the day, and they are sure to bring back some good memories. Do you recognize a few of these? Scroll down to check them out for yourself, and share your own stories in the comments!


What has happened to some of these technologies? Have they become completely obsolete, or are some still in use? Let’s have a brief look at some of the old ‘essentials’ that are no longer in everyday use.

Fax machines: According to Pocket Lint, the fax machine was essentially a modern version of the telegram. “It allowed people and businesses to transmit scanned documents from one phone number to another,” they write. “The recipient would have the joy of a printed copy of the document bursting forth from their machine. This was all done by a transmission of audio frequency tones that were deciphered at the other end. These days, fax machines have largely been rendered obsolete by the invention of email, the internet and advancements in computing technologies.” 



Analogue and dial-up modems: Before broadband and 4G networks came along we connected to the World Wide Web via analogue and dial-up modems.

“These marvels of technology required an open phone line and a lot of patience to get working. If anyone called while you were connected to the ‘net then you’d immediately lose connection. Browsing the web was slow and painful, but it was a thing of beauty and showed promise for the future that we now live in,” Pocket Lint explains.

Floppy disks: Floppy disks first appeared in the 1970s, as a means of storing data from the first ‘personal’ computers.The first was the 8-inch floppy disc, capable of storing just 80 kilobytes of data. “As the floppy disks got smaller, their storage capacity grew and by the mid-1980s the 3.5-inch floppy disk was able to store a respectable 1.44 MB.  Floppy disks were unfortunately vulnerable to magnets and heat, and easily corrupted. By the 1990s software size meant many disks were required for most applications (Adobe Photoshop required over a dozen disks to run) so CD-ROMs began to take over. The floppy disk now only lives on as a save icon in most software applications.”



Portable music players: There have been many types of portable music player over the last few years, from cassette players like the Sony Walkman, CD players like the Sony Discman, Minidisc players and MP3 players.

“We have both fond and frustrating memories of each of these players,” Pocket Lint writes. “Whether it was fighting Walkmans to save a chewed up tape or desperately trying to fit a portable CD player into a coat pocket.”

“Perhaps one of the least popular formats of optical-based digital storage was the MiniDisc. With a high storage capacity of as much as 1GB, these discs could hold up to 45 hours of audio in a compact format. The MiniDisc appeared at a time when CDs were still dominating and thus struggled to gain popularity in the marketplace. MiniDisc sales began to dwindle when MP3 players started to gain popularity and were finally killed off as a format in 2011 when Sony ceased production.”



Vinyl records: This is one piece of technology that has been reborn, while other audio formats have come and gone. “Vinyl records are probably one of the oldest and most long-lasting formats for storing audio recordings. Available in varying formats since the late 1800s, the vinyl record is still in production today and is another format that’s sworn to be the best by audiophiles and sound enthusiasts alike. The format has even had a sales resurgence of late.”

Another piece of retro technology that seems to remain relevant for enthusiasts is the Film camera. “The traditional film camera has basically long since been pushed from the mass market by the modern age of the digital camera.”

“No longer do we need to rely on reels of film or trips to the local shop to get them processed. Digital cameras, SD cards and modern computing systems mean we can snap away happily and see the results of our photos instantly with far less hassle and expense.”

Still, for artists, professional photographers and retro lovers, the process of creating a photograph the old fashioned way represents a challenge and a certain satisfaction that digital photography lacks.



No Internet struggle.


































Waiting an eternity for one song.


“Back in my day, we used to walk 5 miles to school in sub-zero temperatures without batting an eyelid. Not like you spoiled little brats these days!” We all have an older relative who says things like this, despairing of the coddled youth with their smartphones, crappy music and parents that seemingly can’t say no to their every demand.

And you know what? They might actually have a point. Although the world might seem like a more dangerous place now, kids of previous generations had to make their own entertainment, learn to look after themselves from a younger age and take far more risks while doing so. Parents didn’t have things like Mumsnet to help them with every little issue or, alternatively, guilt and stress them out for giving kids too much freedom to learn from their own mistakes.

To celebrate the more eccentric approaches of old-school parenting, we here at Bored Panda have put together a list of parents and their kids doing things that would horrify the mommy and daddy bloggers and Instagrammers of today. What’s your opinion on the evolution of parenting over the years? Scroll down below to check out the vintage photos for yourself, and let us know what you think in the comments!

#1 Me Back In 1991 Just Your Typical Aussie Kid Drinking Xxxxlight Beer(I Wasn’t Aloud Heavies Back Then) And Holding A Baby Crocodile

#2 If Your Mum Didn’t Lay On The Ground Making Herself Into A Ramp For Your New BMX, Did She Even Love You? 1980’s

#3 My Mother And Grandmother Demonstrating Safety Standards In The 1960s

#4 California Marijuana Initiative Rally 1972. That’s Me In The Box And My Parents In The Picture

#5 My Dad And His Veterinarian Mother, With Their Pet Lion Which They Raised For Two Years, 1959

#6 A Couple Ice Skating With Their Baby, 1937

#7 Princess Yvonne And Prince Alexander In Germany, 1955

#8 Car Seat Safety In 1958. Not Strapped In To Anything, These Seats Relied On The Mother To Put Her Arm Out And Stop The Baby From Falling Forward

#9 Infant Me, My Mother & Father At A Bar Because That’s How Parents Rolled In The Early ’80s

#10 The Pinnacle Of Parenting: 1930s Swimming Lesson

#11 My Mother-In-Law Riding A Bear At 2 Years Old

#12 My Hilarious Father (With The Magazine) And My Grandfather, Grandmother, And Uncle At His Bar Mitzvah In 1972

#13 Harley With A Baby Seat, 1962

#14 My Dad Showing Off His Parenting Skills 1985

#15 A Photo Of Me Dressed Up As My Dad, With My Dad (1982)

#16 My Mom In The Hospital After Giving Birth To My Sister. Canada 1978. Smokes And Roasted Chicken

#17 Back In The Day. 1950s To Be Exact. Checkout That Car Seat

#18 My Mom Showing Off Her Parenting Skills 1978

#19 Me, 1958, Relaxing After My Bath With Toby, I Was Never Again This Cool

#20 13 Y/O Dad Having A Taste While The Grownups Are Busy Playing Cards; Upstate New York, August 1954

#21 My Father And His Pet Lion Priscilla, California 1970’s

#22 My Adorable (4 Year Old) Mother At A Zoo In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, 1970

#23 Just A Photo Of Yours Truly (At 11 Years) Petting A Full Grown Tiger. My Mom Calls It Her “Bad Parenting Moment”

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Viacom’s Nickelodeon is doubling down on the educational aspects of its preschooler-focused streaming service, Noggin, with the acquisition of the early childhood learning platform Sparkler. Announced on Friday, the deal will see Sparkler’s technology integrated into Noggin over the next year, and makes Sparkler’s co-founder and CEO Kristen Kane the new head of the Noggin streaming service.

Deal terms were not disclosed.

Kane founded Sparkler after previously working as the founding COO of educational technology company Amplify. Prior to that, she served as COO of the New York City Department of Education during the Bloomberg administration, and spent time working at the FCC, where she led development of strategies for applying broadband technologies in the education, healthcare and energy sectors.

With Sparkler, the company had been developing a different type of early learning platform that measured a child’s progress in order to offer personalized content and coaching for parents, along with other tools that allowed parents, teachers or caregivers to help engage the child through learning activities both on and off-screen.

As a part of its efforts, Sparkler was working with schools, healthcare providers and social service providers. Those relationships will continue through a new nonprofit called Sparkler Learning.

Meanwhile, Sparkler’s core technology will be integrated into Noggin, offering a similar ability to personalize Noggin’s content and allow parents to track and support their child’s progress through “playable content and experiences,” both in the app and in the real world.

The acquisition represents a further expansion of Noggin’s educational aspects beyond its original focus on offering subscription-based streaming of kids’ TV.

First launched in 2015, the idea was to allow Viacom to capitalize on some of its less popular kids’ programming — like Allegra’s Window, Blue’s Room, Franklin and Friends, Gullah Gullah Island, Miss Spider’s Sunny Patch Friends, Oswald, Pocoyo, Robot and Monster and The Upside Down Show — by using a few of its more well-known series — like Blue’s Clues, Little Bear and Ni Hao, Kai-lan — as the draw.

Over the years since, Noggin expanded to include Nickelodeon’s current programming, like PAW Patrol, Peppa Pig, Bubble Guppies and others, and added classics like Dora the Explorer, Umizoomi and Yo Gabba Gabba! The expansion made it a more well-rounded service.

Today, Noggin features more than 1,500 full-length episodes, short-form videos, Spanish-language videos and music videos.

A couple of years ago, Noggin took its first steps into offering more educational content with the addition of curriculum-based “play along” videos. These new, interactive videos asked kids to touch, tap, swipe or speak to move through the storylines.

The concept was based on the work originated by the Children’s Television Workshop, which found that when kids participated by singing or talking, they retained more of what they learned. That work had also previously led to Nickelodeon’s development of TV shows like Blue’s Clues and Dora the Explorer, among others, which further standardized the practice of interactive television by having the show’s characters speak directly to the viewing audience and ask the children questions.

Noggin’s focus on its educational aspects — instead of just competing as a “Netflix for kids” —  helped it succeed. The app now regularly ranks highly in the Kids and Family categories on the App Store, and is a Top 10 Kids app on the free charts. It’s also the No. 1 grossing app for Music and Video in the Family Category on Google Play. And Nickelodeon says Noggin subscriptions have grown by triple digits from 2017 to 2018.

As a result of the deal, Kane will serve in the new role of Noggin’s executive vice president, and will oversee the integration of Sparkler’s technology into the app. She will also drive Noggin’s strategy and next phase of development as an educational digital platform, Nickelodeon says.

Kane will be based in New York and report to Nickelodeon President Brian Robbins.

“Pairing Sparkler’s capabilities with our curriculum-driven content will fully transform Noggin into a premier interactive learning destination for preschoolers and their families,” said Robbins, in a statement. “Kristen brings extensive experience in the education and technology space, and she will help drive Noggin’s growth with an increased focus on delivering even greater value to our direct-to-consumer service,” he added.

Sparkler’s website has already shut down, but you can read its archives here.

The startup had previously received a small grant by winning the NewSchools Ignite Early Learning (PreK-2nd Grade) Challenge as part of its accelerator program.

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Image: Bob al-greene / Mashable

Welcome to Small Humans, an ongoing series at Mashable that looks at how to take care of – and deal with – the kids in your life. Because Dr. Spock is nice and all, but it’s 2018 and we have the entire internet to contend with.

We’re not going to tell you that you can actually buy your way to better sleep with a newborn. If that was true, parents everywhere would have far less disposable income, but find it a lot easier to get out of bed in the morning and function like normal human beings. But sometimes the deep desire to try something, anything wins out and you fire up Amazon looking for a solution. 

The baby sleep gadget market is huge. You’ve got rocking baby beds and vibrating mattress pads. Noise and light machines more sophisticated than anything else in your home. And let’s not forget the cute plush creatures that take snuggling to a whole new level. Hopefully – and for the sake of our sanity, we must keep hope alive – one of these gadgets might just have the magic touch and turn your baby’s bedtime into the stress-free, harmonious operation you’re longing for. Or you might just have to wait it out the old-fashioned way. 

1. Infantino GaGa Musical Soother & Night Light Projector

This looks like a couple of sweet foxes but is actually an all-singing, all-dancing sleep gadget combining a nightlight, light show and range of melodies and nature sounds. The idea is that your little one will be so entranced by the soothing sounds and slowly drifting, colorful stars and clouds that they’ll soon nod off. 

Price: $29.99 at Target

2. Baby Shusher 

If you’re sick of the sound of yourself “shushing” – or simply too exhausted to do it anymore – hand the ropes to the Baby Shusher, which makes a sound that mimics you (and hopefully tricks your little sleep depriver into believing you’re still shushing away). Basically, it’s a white noise machine with a twist. You can pre-set the time and cross your fingers that by the time the noise fades away, your baby is asleep. 

Price: $34.99 at Amazon

3. Suzy Snooze

Aside from looking the part in any contemporary nursery, Suzy Snooze provides lights and comforting sounds and even acts as an audio baby monitor when you connect it to an app. When your baby wakes up, Suzy Snooze’s cry sensor helps get them back to sleep. For toddlers and older kids, it’s a great nightlight. 

Price: $149.99 at Amazon 

The Galaxy Clock projects stars on the ceiling and plays a range of white noises.

Image: Courtsey momknows

4. Galaxy Clock by MomKnows

The Galaxy Clock is packed with features to help you encourage good sleep habits in your baby – and it’s a hit with toddlers and older kids too. There’s a star projector (choose from a favorite color or a rainbow selection), white noise to mimic the sounds your baby listened to inside the womb, nature sounds to suit all tastes (forest birds, rainfall and ocean waves), and possibly the coolest, least-offensive alarm clock ever: the star projector comes up naturally to make your baby feel like the sun is rising and help develop a natural sleep rhythm. If that’s not enough, the Galaxy Clock is also a high-quality music player, compatible with iPhone, iPod, Android and MP3. 

Price: $33.45 at Amazon

5. Lulla Doll

The Lulla Doll by Roro caused a social media sensation when she first appeared on the scene, and for good reason. Parents swear this soft, sweet little doll has the magic touch when it comes to baby sleep issues. She works by playing a real-life recording of a heartbeat and breathing, for up to eight hours. Tip: hug Lulla close to your body for a few minutes before placing her inside or close to your child’s crib – your scent provides even more comfort. 

Price: $69 at Lulla Doll

6. Baby Einstein Sea Dreams Soother

This soothing device combines lights with the sounds of the sea to help get your baby to sleep – and ensure that she stays that way. As well as four different combinations of motion, lights and sounds, it has a “Drift-off” feature, which slowly darkens a room like the fading light of a sunset. It comes with a remote-activated start, meaning you might not even have to get out of bed to soothe your little one back to sleep. 

Price: $39.99 at Amazon

7. Hatch Baby Rest

Rest works with a smartphone or tablet app to let you set nap times, bedtimes and acceptable wake-up times (the clock changes color to let a toddler know it’s okay to get up). It can also play white noise or soothing sounds. The real beauty of Rest is that if you need to change your schedule (for example if your baby needs some extra time to fall asleep), you can do it from your smartphone without setting foot in the nursery – perfect for those of us who have a kid who’s wide awake as soon as you as much as breathe in their direction. 

Price: $59.99 at Hatch Baby

The Hatch Baby Rest works with a smartphone to set up nap times, bed times, and acceptable wake-up times for toddlers.

Image: courtesy hatch

8. Cloud b’s Twilight Turtle

You can’t get a cuter sleep gadget than Cloud b’s Twilight Turtle, but this little guy and his sleepy plush face brings so much more than the “aww” factor. His hard shell has eight constellations that project on the ceiling in three colors, and when you hook him up to Bluetooth you can program a customized selection of melodies for him to play, for up to 24 hours. 

Price: $29.99 at Cloud b

9. Lulla-Vibe Vibrating Mattress Pad

If your baby likes motion to fall asleep, try the award-winning Lulla-Vibe Vibrating Mattress Pad from Munchkin. You simply pop it under a crib mattress or bassinet and let it gently vibrate your infant to sleep. It has a 30-minute timer that shuts off gradually to avoid waking your baby, a durable, easily cleaned cover, and is portable enough to take wherever you go. 

Price: $29.99 at

10. Marpac Dohm Classic White Noise Sound Machine

It might look like a smoke alarm, but appearances can be deceptive and this white noise sound machine is a favorite with kids and adults alike. This clever gadget is basically a fan inside a plastic casing, which actually produces white noise (instead of just playing a white noise track). When you turn the outer shell, holes open and close along the side, which lets you adjust the volume and pitch of the white noise. Hopefully, it will take your baby back to the comfort and calm of the womb – and encourage them to nod off along the way – regardless of the background noise in your home.   

Price: $49.97 at Amazon 

11. SNOO Smart Sleeper

If you really are willing to pay anything to make sure your kiddo sleeps through the night, check out renowned pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp’s responsive bassinet, SNOO. This clever baby bed responds automatically to your baby’s cries, combining unique womb-like rocking and white noise to soothe back to sleep. It claims to calm crying in under a minute, so it’s basically magic – albeit with a hefty price tag.   

Price: $1,160 at Happiest Baby (you can also pay $96.67 per month at 0% interest) 

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Spotify has ended a test that required its family plan subscribers to verify their location, or risk losing accessing to its music streaming service. According to recent reports, the company sent out emails to its “Premium for Family” customers that asked them to confirm their locations using GPS. The idea here is that some customers may have been sharing Family Plans, even though they’re not related, as a means of paying less for Spotify by splitting the plan’s support for multiple users. And Spotify wanted to bust them.

Spiegel Online and Quartz first reported this news on Thursday.

Of course, as these reports pointed out, asking users to confirm a GPS location is a poor means of verification. Families often have members who live or work outside the home — they may live abroad, have divorced or separated parents, have kids in college, travel for work or any other number of reasons.

But technically, these sorts of situations are prohibited by Spotify’s family plan terms — the rules require all members to share a physical address. That rule hadn’t really been as strictly enforced before, so many didn’t realize they had broken it when they added members who don’t live at home.

Customers were also uncomfortable with how Spotify wanted to verify their location — instead of entering a mailing address for the main account, for instance, they were asked for their exact (GPS) location.

The emails also threatened that failure to verify the account this way could cause them to lose access to the service.

Family plans are often abused by those who use them as a loophole for paying full price. For example, a few years ago, Amazon decided to cut down on Prime members sharing their benefits, because they found these were being broadly shared outside immediate families. In its case, it limited sharing to two adults who could both authorize and use the payment cards on file, and allowed them to create other, more limited profiles for the kids.

Spotify could have done something similar. It could have asked Family Plan adult subscribers to re-enter their payment card information to confirm their account, or it could have designated select slots for child members with a different set of privileges to make sharing less appealing.

Maybe it will now reconsider how verification works, given the customer backlash.

We understand the verification emails were only a small-scale test of a new system, not something Spotify is rolling out to all users. The emails were sent out in only four of Spotify’s markets, including the U.S.

And the test only ran for a short time before Spotify shut it down.

Reached for comment, a Spotify spokesperson confirmed this, saying:

“Spotify is currently testing improvements to the user experience of Premium for Family with small user groups in select markets. We are always testing new products and experiences at Spotify, but have no further news to share regarding this particular feature test at this time.”

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