I just finished watching the the excellent documentary Mr Rogers and Me about the life and work of Fred Rogers. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an unabashed Mr. Rogers fanboy, and have been most of my life. If you don’t know who he is, take some time on wikipedia or watch him saving pbs or making a room full of soap stars cry. He was a man of universal acceptance and compassion. And yet, as remarkable as his person was, Fred Roger’s most lasting labor, and legacy, was his believe that television could be more than a vehicle for more than entertainment and the selling of products. He believed that it was medium through which a child could learn, and find acceptance and comfort from the dark times in their lives.

As I sat there watching I couldn’t help but wonder, where is the “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood of the internet”. Now I’ve literally grown up in parallel with the internet. I watched it transform from a  toy of the technical elite into the predominant platform through which people communicate. I’ve seen the rise of AOL instant messenger, Facebook and Twitter. Yet for all these accomplishments where is our “Neighborhood”? A place that is safe, secure for children. A place they can turn when they’re angry, or afraid of the drain, or dealing with a divorce. The internet is desperately missing a place like the tagline of the documentary describes, a place that is “Deep and Simple” and can introduce these complicated topics in a manner that any child can approach.

There’s nothing technical missing. All the pieces, tools and technologies  are in place to build a world of exploration and acceptance online. But we’re waiting on our Fred Rogers. Someone who can come along and bring that touch of humanity and show us the way to use this new medium as a way of forging deeper connections between us.  Someone who can refocus technologies built for consumption on to creation and exploration. A place where children can learn to private work out their feelings through music, song, story and images.

If anyone who ends up reading this knows about a project like this, please let me know. I’d gladly donate some of my time, and any technical assistance I could lend. Like many of my peers I grew up with Mr Rogers neighborhood on the TV, and I’d be proud to help work on the “Neighborhood” for the next generation.