October 31st, 2000
Schools Zapped by Advertising; ZapMe! Corp. brings commercials into the classroom via computer
For Channel One-weary parents, another in-school marketing program has arrived, courtesy of the ZapMe! Corp.
ZapMe! will loan 15 computers and other accessories free of charge to schools along with software called “Netspace” that allows students to visit up to 10,000 ZapMe!-approved Internet web sites. The software enables students to have personal email addresses at school and possibly even at home, so they can send messages to classmates, teachers, and anyone else who has an email address.
What’s the catch? Schools must promise to have a student sitting at every computer for at least four hours of every school day to provide an audience for ZapMe!’s advertisements. The ads run constantly, taking up a third of the computer screen, and change frequently to attract students’ attention. With a click of the mouse, the ads can be enlarged, and many become full-blown video commercials.
Some web sites accessible on ZapMe!’s “Netspace” contain lists of soft-core pornographic movies and advertisements for violent video games. The software includes more than 100 computer games kids can play during school time and reportedly allows for the monitoring of students’ browsing habits as they surf the net.
“The ZapMe! Corp. openly admits that they will track children and compile information about their web-browsing habits to better target the advertising on the computer screens,” contends Jim Metrock, president of Obligation Inc., a pro-family organization that opposes in-school advertising. “Marketers can use the information collected to target their products directly to students.”
Metrock says schools must agree to send commercial information home with students three times a year as part of ZapMe!’s home marketing program. “This is exploitation that surpasses our friends at Channel One,” he notes, “but Channel One’s success allowed this California company to even try this concept. Believe me, it is not a joke.”