Keeping Your Kids Safe On The Web
Today, it seems as if the world revolves around the internet. The internet is vast and the possibilities of what we can accomplish and see seem endless… and those internet resources are growing daily. We use the internet for business, communication, research, and commerce, just to name a few. As adults, we are able to self-regulate and use our best judgement on where we navigate to and what we do online. Children, however, have a naturally unyielding curiosity and don’t necessarily have the life experience needed to make good internet browsing decisions. Our youth is using the internet more and more for school, social media, and video watching. While most kids have positive experiences on the web, one-fifth of children ages 8-13 report seeing something online that bothers them in the last month. While one-fifth seems relatively low, keep in mind those are only the reported statistics and just because content didn’t bother a child, it doesn’t mean that the content was child-friendly.
So what do we do to ensure our children are accessing appropriate internet material for their age group and having positive experiences? While monitoring your child while on the internet will always be the best recommendation, there are also child-geared internet browsers and search engines that can be used in place of fuller-access browsers better suited for adults. You may have heard of one or two but you may be surprised to learn just how many are out there to choose from.
Google has launched its own kid-friendly search engine. While the adult version of the Google search engine is fairly minimalistic, Kiddle offers a more visually stimulating experience for children with a more colorful space-themed page and search bar. Search results are large and include a thumbnail image.
Search results are broken up into tiers on Kiddle. The first few results have been chosen by Google editors and deemed not only safe sites for children but is content written specifically for kids. The next tier of results may not be content written specifically for kids but the content has been checked by Google editors and is still very easy for children to read. The last tier includes sites that are actually written for adults but by experts and is informational. While the content could potentially be a bit advanced for a child, Google’s SafeSearch filters the content and anything explicit or inappropriate is blocked.
For parents who like a lot more control over their child’s computer usage, Pikluk offers a full internet browser and email system for children. Parents can pick and choose exactly which sites their children can have access to, the email addresses their children can exchange emails with, and can block access to the rest of your computer.
Pikluk offers parents a dashboard that they can configure remotely and the only thing a child sees on the interface is the permitted content. The added computer system block feature is fantastic for small children who may otherwise alter files and change computer settings.
This one seems a little dated but it’s worth mentioning. KidSplorer is a web browser that uses a database of kid-friendly sites. Parents can further restrict content by choosing which individual pages on a website that a child has access to. Further features include regulating the amount of time children can spend on the web or computer, overall. KidSplorer also can prevent access to the taskbar, desktop icons, start button, or running any other programs on the computer.
This browser allows for multiple users with individual settings so parents can give a little more access to older kids while still protecting more content from their younger children.
ZAC Browser is the “Zone for Autistic Children” and is one specifically designed for youth with autism and autism spectrum disorders. Developed by a grandfather who owned People CD Inc., a software production company, for his autistic grandson, the browser simplifies internet browsing and eases frustration that can sometimes rise with operating a computer. ZAC Browser reduces user interface controls (such as the ability to close the browser– great for those with impaired fine motor skills) and removes much web access with the goal of simplifying the experience and reducing overwhelm for autistic children.
Even though this browser was built for ease of use for autistic children, many parents may find the controlled environment useful for smaller children.
Above are just a few of the many browser and search engine options available for parents to protect their young children. For more resources you can check out this list from Common Sense Media.