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The Net, Your Kids, and You


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The Internet for Young Children

[Tip] We have to say up front that we are strong advocates of allowing children to be children, and we believe that children are better teachers than computers are. We are not in favor of sticking a young child -- younger than age seven -- in front of a screen. Many educators feel that unstructured computer time under age 11 is inappropriate. At that age, children benefit more from playing with trees, balls, clay, crayons, paint, mud, monkey bars, bicycles, and other kids.

More and more parents are having to make choices about the Internet and their kids. The best way to start is by checking out a few sites for yourself. Here's a few to start with:

Also take a look at the great list of kids' and parents' sites that Doug Muder developed for Internet: The Complete Reference.

The Internet for K-12

K-12 is the label that's given to all the education that happens between preschool (nursery school or day care) and college. It's a broad category. We use it here because many mailing lists and newsgroups use the K-12 designation and it seems to be common ground for many people. We think that Internet access is more appropriate for somewhat older children (fourth or fifth grade and older), but your mileage may vary.

The Internet is an incredible way to expand the walls of a school. The Net can connect you to other schools and to libraries, research, museums, and other people. You can visit the Louvre and the Sistine Chapel; practice your French or Spanish or Portuguese or Russian or Japanese; and hear new music and make new friends.

Here are sites for kids in K-12:

Checking Out Colleges on the Net

Most colleges and universities have sites on the Web, and many use both e-mail and the Web in their classes. To find a college, go to Yahoo and click Education and then Universities.

The ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education at http://www.eriche.org/main.html was created by the U.S. Department of Education. Click the Parents or Students links for information.

Finding a Job by Using the Net

Check out Monster.com at http://www.monster.com, an amazing compilation of job-related information that enables you to search by discipline or geography or a host of other criteria. .

When the Net Is college

Distance learning means taking courses over the Internet or by mail. CollegeDegree.com lists colleges and universities that offer distance learning programs -- click the Distance Learning button.

The Consumer's Guide to Choosing College Courses on the Internet at http://www.drake.edu/iaicu/consumer_guide.html is dated, but contains some good questions to ask before signing up for an online course.

Parental Guidance Required

High on the list of parents' concerns about the Internet is the question of children's access to inappropriate material.

More and more products are appearing on the market to help parents restrict access or monitor usage by some sort of activity report. If you choose to use one of these systems, remember that they are not a substitute for your direct involvement with your child's Internet experience; they all filter based on keywords and fixed lists of systems that are believed (by the programs' authors) to have objectionable material.

Here a few of these programs we're aware of:

  • SurfWatch, from Spyglass
    E-mail: info@surfwatch.com
    URL: http://www.surfwatch.com
    Available for both the PC and the Macintosh, SurfWatch screens for newsgroups likely to contain sexually explicit material and keeps a computer from accessing specified WWW, FTP, and chat sites.
  • Net Nanny, from Trove Investment Corporation
    E-mail: netnanny@netnanny.com
    URL: http://www.netnanny.com/
    This PC-based product monitors all PC activity, both on-line and off the Net in real-time. The parent- (or employer- or teacher-) defined dictionary enables you to determine what's not appropriate in your home. Net Nanny creates a log of children's activities.
  • Cybersitter, from Solid Oak Software, Inc.
    E-mail: info@solidoak.com
    URL: http://www.solidoak.com/
    This Windows-based Internet filtering program blocks WWW sites and newsgroups and filters e-mail. Cybersitter also generates a report of site visits.
  • Also see Smart Filter, below.

Self-help Mailing Lists for Parents of Kids with Problems

Resource Name Description To Contact
our-kids Support for parents and others regarding the care, diagnosis, and therapy for young children with developmental delays Send the e-mail message subscribe our-kids to our-kids-request@sjuvm.stjohns.edu
deafkids Support for deaf children. Send the e-mail message subscribe deafkids to listserv@maelstrom.stjohns.edu
cshcn-l Support for children with special health care needs Send the e-mail message subscribe cshcn-l to listserv@nervm.nerdc.ufl.edu
dadvocat Support for dads of children with disabilities Send the e-mail message subscribe dadvocat to listserv@lsv.uky.edu

The Internet in Schools

Schools are actively debating Internet access for their students. Teachers and parents go round and round, and ignorance seems to prevail. Find out as much as you can and get involved. The more you know, the more you can advocate for appropriate access.
  • A wonderful book called The Internet for Teachers, by Bard Williams (published by Hungry Minds, Inc., the For Dummies people) can help you understand all that can be gained from the Internet and can arm you with the information you'll need to face hordes of cynics, including school administrators, teachers, and other parents. The book focuses on resources for learning on the Net and is a great find for parents.
  • Smart Filter, an institutional software product, is available free of charge to K-12 schools (at least, it used to be -- better ask them). Smart Filter logs Internet access and denies access to certain categories of sites. It is available from Secure Computing Corporation.
    E-mail: info@smartfilter.com
    URL: http://www.smartfilter.com/

Mailing Lists for Parents and Kids

kidsphere

The kidsphere list was established in 1989, to stimulate the development of an international computer network for the use of children and their teachers. Send subscription requests to:
kidsphere-request@vms.cis.pitt.edu

kids

On this list, children post messages to other children. Send subscription requests to:
kids-request@vms.cis.pitt.edu

pen-pals

This list provides a forum in which children correspond electronically with each other. The list is not moderated, but it is monitored for content. Send subscription requests to:
listproc@mainstream.net with the following as the message body (substitute your own name):

subscribe pen-pals firstname lastname

Mailing Lists for and about Kids

Resource Name Description To Contact
kidlit-l A list about children's and youth literature

Send the message
subscribe kidlit-l to listserv@bingvmb.cc.binghamton.edu

kidzmail Kids exploring issues and interests electronically Send the message subscribe kidzmail to listserv@asuvm.inre.asu.edu
childri-l Discussion of U.N. convention on the rights of children Send the message subscribe childri-l to listserv@nic.surfnet.nl
ecenet-l Early childhood education and young children (0 - 8 years old) Send the message subscribe ecenet-l to listserv@postoffice.cso.uiuc.edu
eceol-l Early childhood education on-line mailing list Send the message subscribe eceol-l to listserv@maine.maine.edu

Newsgroups for Parents and Kids

Usenet newsgroups provide a way for Internet users around the world to hold conversations, and its a great way for kids to converse, too. Usenet also includes a number of newsgroups for parents and teachers. We describe how to read newsgroups in Chapter 9. The following list of newsgroups might be of interest to you and your family:
Newsgroup Topic
misc.kids Children and their behavior and activities
misc.kids.computer The use of computers by children
misc.kids.health Children's health
misc.kids.pregnancy The first nine months
misc.kids.vacation The joys and perils of kids on vacation
rec.games.chess Chess and computer chess
rec.games.corewar The Core War computer challenge
rec.games.design Game-design and related issues
rec.games.lego For all the lego maniacs
rec.roller-coaster Roller coasters and other amusement park rides
rec.railroad For fans of real trains
rec.scouting Youth scouting organizations worldwide
soc.college College, college activities, and campus life
alt.parents-teens Parent-teenager relationships

Some Internet providers make available an entire set of K-12 groups, intended for teachers and schoolchildren in elementary and high schools. The first part of the names of these newsgroups is k12.

Suggestions Welcome

If you have a favorite kids' Internet resource that you think would be appropriate to include here, send us e-mail.

Updated: Mar 10, 2001


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