The ease with which anyone can use the Internet and can do so in such an anonymous way creates an environment that's especially dangerous for young and naive kids. While the Internet offers children with a wonderful opportunities to play educational online games or connect with pen pals from across the world, it also presents an open doorway into your home where numerous dangers can find a way to a child.
The following websites are some of the best resources that parents and teachers can use to introduce kids to some of the things they need to be careful about when they're spending time on the Internet.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited children volunteered an entire free website for children to learn all about safely using the Internet. The wonderful thing about NetSmartKids is that children will have so much fun that they won't even realize they're learning important lessons about their online safety.
Playing Online Games that Teach Safety
NetSmartKidz has videos, games and even a "Club UYN" where kids can feel like they're part of a fun and exciting community where they'll find updated videos and content every month, and relevant to every season or holiday. There's even an online "adventure" kids can play called "Router's Birthday Surprise!" The adventure includes a series of tasks the child must complete, and each task of the game teaches something very important about online safety.
WoogiWorld is a unique online community for young children in that the website serves as both a training ground for kids about how to be careful with online chatting, how to be safe when using computer technology, and even how to use technology in a healthy way that promotes balance in that child's life.
Complete 4 Missions to Enable Features
When kids even just start playing the CyberHero game at WoogiWorld, the first thing they can do is play four important missions to learn about the most important online rules when using the Internet. These missions teach kids about the four most critical areas that kids need to be very aware and alert about potential dangers.
Completely Missions to Unlock Features
Each mission includes fun games with arcade-game style tests kids need to successfully complete before that feature of the online kids community - like chat - gets enabled for their account. These tests are set up like games, but they actually do an excellent job to instill a strong understanding of how to be safe while using those features.
PBSKids.org created Webonauts as a way to educate kids about important skills they need to know when they spend time online. The lessons taught at Webonauts Internet Academy are more subtle than at other websites. The child world through the adventure, from first joining the academy and picking their suit and helmet, to exploring different places and making choices that reflect, in some way, upon the choices they will face while surfing the Internet in real life.
Making the Right Choice
While many other websites that teach Internet safety for kids tend to come right out and spell out the rules or lessons the child needs to understand about safety on the Internet, Webonauts Internet Academy veils this behind the missions. Each mission offers the child gentle clues about making the right decisions about things like only going to sites where you're supposed to go, and never giving anyone your passwords.
ThinkUKnow is a UK-based website that's focused on teaching children how to use different Internet technologies, and also how to do so in a way that protects themselves and their computer. Lessons are provided in an interactive cartoon-based session where the child or student can click answers or have the character try different actions to see if it's the right thing to do in a given situation.
Safe Email Use
The interactive lessons that kids can work through include email use, chat rooms, web browsing, text messaging and personal online space. The graphics are high quality enough to keep any child's interests, and the lessons are clear and easy to understand. There's nothing subtle about the lessons you'll find at ThinkUKnow. It's all about protecting yourself within your Internet communications, as well as protecting your computer from things like viruses or malware, which kids often seem the most vulnerable to.
Wired Kids is a website that offers a lot more than just activities for kids to learn about safe Internet use. It's actually a website built to educate entire communities about online dangers and to create awareness for not only children, but also parents, educators and even law enforcement. One great program that you'll find for kids at this site is a segment called "Internet Super Heroes" that focuses on recognizing and preventing cyberbullying.
Schools or Parents Can Sign Up
WiredKids offers a lot of valuable information and a great program for children aged from very young up to teens to learn all about really important issues when it comes to their computer and Internet use. However, unlike most other sites like this, kids can't just sign up online. Anyone interested in joining has to fill out an application form and mail it in through the mail. Children can sign up, but they'll need their parent's consent letter.
Hector's World is an excellent free resource for teachers or parents to use in introducing online safety to younger children. It is set up for early childhood environments like preschools or kindergarten, and is suitable for most children up to 5 or 6 years old. The website is built around "core content" of 7 animated episodes that teach children about safe Internet use and "digital citizenship."
Episodes at Hector's World
It is clear that the creators of Hector's World put a lot of time and effort into each of the animated episodes that children can watch at the Episodes Theater. The quality is very high, and the lessons are valuable and easy for kids to understand and learn. However, the rest of the flash-based website leaves a little to be desired as far as ease of navigation, and the amount of computer resources the application consumes. The website will crash older computer systems, so parents and teachers need to be sure to only use this service on newer computers.
Handouts and Materials
There are also plenty of valuable supporting materials for teachers to use in the classroom at "Information Island." The episodes combined with the volume of classroom materials and lesson plans that are available at Hector's World make this one of the most useful Internet safety sites for the classroom.
Safety Land is a website offered by AT&T which takes kids through a series of scenarios, which the child needs to consider and choose the correct course of action. Each building shows Captain Broadband, the local superhero, facing the task in some animated way. By choosing the right answer, the child helps Captain Broadband eradicate the villain from that building.
Answering Questions at Safety Land
The music, sounds and animate is fun and is sure to keep the interest of any child from 3 to 6 years old. The lessons provided in each building are relevant and very important for children to know if they're going to spend any time online. After working through all of the buildings and answering the questions correctly, the child has an opportunity to print out a certificate that proves they are a Safety Land superhero.
It is clear, just from reading the daily news, that the Internet is a regular target for many child predators. However, that doesn't mean parents need to be afraid of letting their children use the valuable resources that exist online.
By incorporating good anti-virus and security computer software as well as educating their children through the use of these sorts of available online resources, parents can rest assured that their children are Internet savvy enough to avoid situations that might be dangerous or which may compromise their privacy. Education is to key to Internet safety for kids.