Today’s youth is exposed to technology very early in life – according to 2015 American Academy of Pediatrics, “30% of U.S. children first play with a mobile device when they are still in diapers”. Relative to toddlers, children aged 8 are more capable and conscientious of their actions. However, they are barely halfway through elementary school! Yet in a recent study, parents started to allow unsupervised internet time when their child was 8 years old.
Big name sites such as Google and Facebook have created safe search options in order to protect young kids from inappropriate content on the web, e.g., Google SafeSearch and Youtube Safety Mode. However, with high upload volumes every day, it’s almost impossible to filter out all the “bad stuff”.
Parents can’t constantly look over their child’s shoulder and watch for unsuitable results that may pop up. Luckily, developers know that. Here are some safe, kid-friendly alternatives for the top internet activities. These sites contain only pre-filtered content, so parents can rest easy while their child uses the web.
Search engines host a wealth of information, spanning from every topic imaginable. A lot of this content is particularly unsavory for young children. It’s easy to stumble upon adult content, especially with slang perpetuated by web-culture today – feel free to type in “jugs” (porcelain and ceramic, right?) into Google with SafeSearch enabled and see what comes up.
Instead, set websites like kidrex.org or googlejunior.com as your browser homepage. You don’t need to “enable” anything on these sites, all the safety measures are ready to go. Kidrex is aimed toward a younger elementary school audience while Google Junior is perfect for kids entering their tween years. Google Junior even provides a word and quote of the day. See what happens when the word “porn” is searched:
Kidrex blocks everything even remotely related, while Google Junior provides relevant, non-explicit results surrounding porn in a different context –current events, news, even web filtering shows up!
Youtube Safety Mode blocks obviously explicit video content, but it’s by no means infallible. They even say this themselves: “Restricted Mode hides videos that may contain inappropriate content flagged by users and other signals. No filter is 100% accurate, but it should help you avoid most inappropriate content”. Many suggestive videos escape the filtering criteria, and the comments posted underneath each video can be extremely profane.
Start your kids on Kideos, a site that contains a myriad of trendy, kid-friendly entertainment. It includes a variety of popular TV shows from channels including, but not limited to Disney, Nickelodean, PBS Kids. It does not allow comment posting. They also offer an app compatible with most smartphone platforms.
It even allows parents to set limits on videos based on age group or choose how long their child can watch videos, after passing a “parent security question”.
45% of kids aged 8-11 use social media. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram offer a great way to connect with peers, stay in touch, find a community, and keep updated on current events. However, these sites are also filled with online predators and scams that target young, uninformed users. They also have the highest occurrence of cyberbullying, Facebook topping the chart as #1.
To avoid these risks and foster a safe, fun online community for younger children and pre-teens, various companies have created social network sites with “training wheels”. These range from ad-less interfaces, features that connect a parent account to the child’s account, or manual review of uploaded photos by on-hand company staff. Some sites are even centered around themes – Franktown Rocks is a site devoted to safe social networking surrounding sharing and making music. BBC recently compiled a list with the top safe, social media sites for kids aged 7-13.
When tackling a research project, students tend to immediately turn to Google. This is a great resource for gathering ideas, but the quality of results are varied. Students may have to comb through a large amount of unaccredited sources and irrelevent search results before finding something they will be able to cite.
Many schools actually purchase subscriptions to online databases for students to use; these are heavily underutilized. Common names are Cengage Learning or EBSCOhost . They serve as virtual, portable libraries. After students indicate the subject area they are interested in, these databases supply relevant content from scholarly article, ebooks, and encyclopedia entries. All students need is their school access code – which is usually posted on their school’s homepage or around the school libraries.
Say your child had a research project about guns. See the contrast between Google SafeSearch and a database with the single keyword “guns”:
>> Google safe search first provides near by places to access guns.
>> Then supplies more information about buying guns with a mention there at the bottom concerning guns in current events.
>> However, the database lists books about the history and culture of guns, the controversy over gun rights, and even the theory behind electron guns. Much more relevant to a research project.
Last, but not least, gaming! Kids spend most of their time on the internet playing games. Yet, these sites are often riddled with scams, predators, and violent-themed content. This list provides a wide variety of alternative sites which are as fun as they are educational. Trusted sites include PBS Kids and Brain Pop!. There are safe sites devoted to a range of interests from arts to sports!