by Jeanne Sager
Get your kid a tablet, they say. The kids will love it, they say. No really, that's what all the retailers are saying this year, and the consumer experts too. This is the holiday season of the kids' tablet. The children want 'em, and the parents are expected to buy them in record numbers.
This may solve the problem of what the big gift for Christmas will be, but it only creates another one for parents: if you're giving a kid a tablet with Internet access, how do you keep your child safe online?
Ah, there's the rub, right? It's hard to keep today's kids offline, but once they're on, you don't want them to accidentally wander into naughty 'net territory.
Having been there ... and done that ... allow me to offer a few safe spaces for kids on the web to pre-load into their browser bookmarks on their tablet!
1. batteryPOP -- A new (and free!) site for kids that's loaded with entertainment news, tutorials (learn how to play Minecraft!), and kid-centric sketch comedy, batteryPOP lets kids decide what "pops" by letting them upvote the content they love.
2. Club Penguin -- A massive multi-player online game (the kids call them MMOs), this is Disney-run, and it's mostly pay-to-play, although there is some stuff kids can access for free. My kid would spend hours on here (if I let her) playing with the fluffy creatures called Puffles. What I dig is the emphasis on safety -- there are live moderators making sure kids don't give out personal information, filters to keep out swear words, and no ads (aside, of course, from Disney shows being heavily featured).
3. Jan Brett -- The popular children's book author has sold 35 million books over the years, and once said she believes reading is a way for kids to flex their "creative muscles." So it's no surprise that her author website is loaded with creative projects for kids. Even better? Many of them encourage your kids to get OFFLINE to make a craft!
4. National Gallery of Art Kids -- Kids can create their own still life that's akin to the works of the old masters or take a digital class on digital photography on this site from the National Gallery of Art.
5. Kids.Gov -- Let them dive into STEM with a virtual visit to the Insect Zoo or a walk through the water cycle. It's free and ad-free too!
6. The Learning Network -- Directed at older kids (think tweens), The New York Times' Learning Network is a news site just for them!
7. Creating Music -- No need to pay for a piano just yet. Kids can make music and learn about musical concepts such as pitch and tempo on this free site. The site is mostly ad-free, aside from some educational products related to the site's message.
8. Discovery Kids -- Science from the folks at the Discovery Channel, this has games, puzzles, and quizzes, all for free and all educational. Beware, there is a link to the Discovery Shop.
9. Kideos -- So they want video content, but you don't want to let them loose on YouTube? Try this site that's full of safe videos curated by a group of parents and educators so you don't have to watch them watching.
10. Crayola -- It pushes the company's products, but I have to admit I love this site most because it pushes kids offline to create beyond the games that are on the site!
What sites do you let your kids visit online?