Today’s kids are armed with more digital knowledge than most adults. However, just because a child can navigate the wired world doesn’t mean it’s a safe playground. While many parents let their kids play on digital devices or watch videos on YouTube Kids, the internet is still a mixed bag when it comes to online content.
Keeping kids safe is the bottom line for parents, but still, going tech-free isn’t always an option…nor is it feasible. In the tech-centric world, the internet and digital technology is integral to education and educators. And the online exploration begins young—as it should—with many preschoolers and early elementary students navigating their way through the information superhighway.
But how do we keep young kids safe while still letting them take the logical leap into the online world? As well as safeguarding your devices with parental controls and other phone monitoring tools, provide plenty of easy access to kid-friendly online resources and trustworthy sites.
Check out these online resources for young kids who want to explore—and learn—in the cyber world.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children created the site NetSmartzKids, and, honestly, it is the best online resource for helping kids to understand internet safety. Before they head to any other site, be sure to introduce children to NetSmartzKids. Kids can watch movies that explain internet safety in a not-so-scary way. These videos help empower kids so they understand online safety concepts. The site also includes games and other activities. Many schools use NetSmartzKids to educate students about internet dangers and how to stay safe.
Raz-Kids is an online reading program. Many schools have a subscription to the site, which offers books at different reading levels. Younger students start at the very beginning as they are introduced to phonics concepts and then gradually progress through other levels. Readers need to pass quizzes to move on to the next level and also earn points to decorate and upgrade their Raz Rocket. Parents may also order a subscription for home use if their school or preschool is not a subscriber. At home, be sure to sit with kids as they go through their tasks. Raz-Kids requires kids to read and listen to a book before taking a quiz over the story. When my kids used this, I think you could scroll through the book at any pace…just make sure they’re actually reading!
PBS Kids is one of the best resources for young children who are eager to play and learn online. The site features the station’s favorite characters and activities for each program. Kids can watch videos, play games and explore. You can even download apps or e-books.
Learning isn’t just about math, science, reading, and writing. Playtime is an important teacher, too. And playing is how kids so often learn about their world. Common Sense Media recommends the app My PlayHome for preschool kids for its focus on inspiring imagination. The app is for ages three and older. Dolls in the PlayHome are inclusive of all ethnicities, and children can create any family dynamic they wish.
Download the app or play online, ABCmouse has games and activities across multiple subjects for young learners. However, this learning site is only available by subscription (although there is a free trial). The cost is $9.95 per month. Content is geared for ages 2 through 8. Like Raz-Kids, parents might need to supervise to ensure kids are completing the tasks.
The internet offers numerous learning sites and platforms for young users, however, parents must be aware of the content and should never leave young kids unattended while they play online. While apps and sites are geared toward young users, one wrong click can send a child elsewhere into cyberspace. Make sure all parental controls are implemented and engage with kids as they learn online.