ABC Kids TV has perhaps one of the most extensive and sophisticated examples of an online platform incorporating elements of digital and transmedia storytelling for children in Australia. The site has an extensive range of material, from interactive games, additional narratives, podcasting, vodcasting and support sites for parents it approaches children’s television content comprehensively. The best example of interactive material occurs at a site called, 'the playground,' (see [] which offers the most enhanced range of digital and transmedia children's activities based on show aired on ABC Kids. The name, 'playground,' refers to this sense of interactivity, playfulness and engagement with media and technology. (see also []
Lin Timson (The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 March 2008, p52) selects the site as one of the most secure online platforms for children available online. Young Children (the site itself seems to aim at children aged between 2 and 7 years old) are of course much less media literate than older online users. Creating digital and transmedia content for online platforms is challenging to media producers because they must cater for an audience with a very simple understanding of basic literacies, colours and numerals. The ABC Kids TV site is designed to be used by very young children. The buttons are large and simply coloured, there a lots of animations and many of the icons make sounds when you roll the cursor over them. This combination of sound, solid colours and images not only engages the young user but also provides simple instructions for their use. (Timson 2008) Support pages for parents and the simple structure of the page also helps parents navigate the site with their children.
The ABC Kids TV site offers a form of podcasting and gives young children one of their first experiences of online radio content. ‘Playground Radio’ [] offers all the songs from ABC Kids TV shows and a very usable form. With big bright buttons and verbal cues young children are likely to be able to navigate this ‘radio’ by themselves or with the assistant of a parent. Tools like, ‘playground radio’ really extend the experience of the child of the media outside the traditional half a hour the show may occupy once a week or once a day. It also over time may help to improve the media literacies of young children when navigating websites, online media and podcasts.
There are both transmedia and digital aspects to ‘the playground.’ Older children are able to both participate in games and activities which challenge and educate them on ‘the rollercoaster’ [] page (which targets older children with a better understanding of the use of the technology.) and they are able to participate in games which extend the narratives of the characters in their favourite TV programs (Timson 2008.) ‘The rollercoaster,’ page introduces the concept of ‘blogging’ and conceptualizes the basic ideas of social media for 8- 14 year old children. Essentially it is designed as the next step up from, ‘the playground,’ by shaping further their online media literacy skills. *(see also Overview: Transmedia Storytelling
‘The playground’ features many interactive multimedia elements which engage the user in alternate storylines and games which are spawned by the TV shows. They are colourful and simple to navigate and each feature an additional, ‘parental support page’ with background information and instructions for each game. The are often verbal cues associated with the game which assist usage and increase the level of engagement with the media. In his article Transmedia Storytelling: Business, Aesthetics and Production at the Jim Henson Company Geoffrey Long (2001) discussed this idea of the expectations of the younger generations been altered from a very young age, eventually leading a totally altered understanding and expectation of transmedia content when they are older. He uses the example of 'pokemon' to argue how the generation who grew up with the games, online material and transmedia elements created around the television series will now have dramatically altered expectations of the media they consume in the future. One of these expectations will be enhanced interactivity. The ability to have more control over the storyline and appearance of the media and to be able to communicate with the creators and other users via forums, blogs and commenting.
The ABC Kids TV site encourages the use hyper-connectivity between sites to encourage child-users to explore beyond ‘the playground’ website. Timson (2008) notes that young users can, ‘watch TV episodes and follow their favourite bands on the Triple J-linked Loop page.' ‘The Playground,’ in a sense, is shaping future media users by increasing their exposure to other media outlets (like Triple J.) Essentially by the time they grow up, users of ‘the playground’ should have a good understanding and expectation of transmedia storytelling and also a command over the vocabulary of social networking and the media.