Elizabeth Rodgers is the co-founder of Ben's Ranch, a personal and small business technology service company. An award-winning writer and filmmaker, Elizabeth has taken her enthusiasm for narrative to create a voice, face and story for Bens Ranch to address our core client the multi-tasking mom with very little time to spare.

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Safe Websites for Kids

Admit it: you’re nervous about your child being on the Internet. We all are. You’re in good company.

The Internet doesn’t have to be a scary, icky place for children. There are so many educational, fun and inspiring things that they can do online. Like what, you ask?

For very small (and not so small kids):
This website is a good introduction on how to move the mouse for a toddler. The kitty cat follows the mouse. The kitty purrs if you leave the mouse on her chest. And she’ll try to paw the mouse if you leave it at her feet. Funnier than it should be.

For another introduction on how to use the mouse and see that you are affecting the screen, go to Poisson Rouge. You can paint, put together a jigsaw puzzle, and even conduct a round of Frere Jacques.

Does your child love fire trucks? And singing? We found a great, two-minute video on Google that holds our children’s attention for at least 7 playings. On a loop. There are a gazillion videos that you can access on Google Video or You Tube that your children will love: turtles, trains, tractors, ocean waves – whatever your child is interested in, do a search and find the video. Of course, make sure it’s appropriate for child viewing, don’t assume anything.

There are also many great homepages for your children to personalize (a homepage is the page onto which your browser opens – for me, it’s my personalized Yahoo page). Here are some suggestions:
www.matmice.com
www.nasa.gov/audience/forkids/home/index.html
kids.yahoo.com
kids.nationalgeographic.com
pbskids.org

There are a few things to think about with your child being online:

You should have the computer in a public space. Not only does it keep everyone in touch with what your little angel is watching/doing, it also affords you the chance to interact and discover new things together.

Never give out personal information. And by personal information, I mean name, address, school, parents’ names, phone numbers, email addresses, etc. Some websites ask for this information, but it’s not mandatory. If it is, your child should ask you before he types any of it in. And you should make sure that that information is not publicly available. If your child gets an email that says that he won an iPod and that all he has to do is fill out the form, you need to let him know that it’s a scam. Most kids are delighted to win the iPod and will give away any and all information. They don’t have the same life-experience as you and you need to communicate this to your child.

You need to know the websites that he’s clicking on. If your child is very young, he won’t be surfing from one place to the next so quickly. He’ll need your help. But when your kids get older, they should know that the Internet is public and that wherever they go online, they’re leaving a trail that you can follow – so he shouldn’t go anywhere that he knows is not right. If your child is being secretive, ASK her where she goes online. This should be an ongoing dialogue. You don’t let them watch any TV program they want, so why would you let them run wild on the Internet without your input?

Stay involved and participate! Not just for safety, but for a shared experience. There is so much to discover online: music, science, travel, games, art. The wealth of information and experience available could have a profoundly positive influence on you and your kids.

A Technical Solution: Buy Parental Control Software. Don’t get an Internet filter with a feature of parental control. These tools tend to be less flexible, less intuitive and frankly, get in the way more than they help. The program I like is SafeEyes for both Mac and PC.

Go to the following websites for lists of more appropriate websites for children:
www.ala.org/greatsites
www.kidsites.com
safekids.com

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