Friday, September 28, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
We keep a laptop computer in our living room so that we can easily supervise computer use. We have the Firefox icon (our Internet browser of choice) set up so that Firefox is easily accessible from the desktop and http://www.starfall.com/ is the browser's home page. But, the boys must still ask permission to use the computer and we monitor how long they work on it at any given time.
Starfall.com may be the most popular website used in schools today and I am always impressed with what my boys learn (and find!) when they are using it. A couple days ago my almost 4-year said, “Mom, do you know today, is Sunday, September 16, 2007?” I was a bit surprised and then realized that he was working within the calendar section of the site. He then proceeded to create a calendar for October and labeled his birthday correctly on October 10. It was fun for me to watch; he was engaged and quite proud of himself.
Then it happened, Danny (a new Kindergartner with a new attitude and a new sense of entitlement) realized that Drew was getting way too much attention so he grabbed the mouse and crazily began trying to do something to ruin Drew’s calendar while simultaneously saying that the site was for babies.
Any Mom with siblings close in age is not at all surprised by these actions but in seconds Danny ended up navigating his way to a site with downloadable video about surfing in Hawaii. The site was not bad (even though the video was entirely too large and froze my computer) but the whole incident really brought home a major concern many Moms have about letting their children use the Internet – where may they go and what might they see?
We have already talked to both Danny and Drew about what to do if they navigate to a place with a lot of words or pictures they don’t understand. We have also told them that just like some bad people live in our world, some bad people use the Internet. So, just like when they see a stranger in our cul-de-sac they are to come tell Mom or Dad if they get on a strange page on the computer. (The UPS man on our street is probably very amused that every time he comes down the street the boys immediately run inside to tell me ☺).
However, an even better solution appears on the horizon. I was recently eavesdropping on my colleague Jeff Boyer’s class when I heard him talk about Hector’s World, an Internet Safety project by the Internet Safety Group. It sounded pretty similar to other initiatives with which I am familiar (i.e. .Cybersmart, i-Safe, SafeKids.com, GetNetWise, etc.) until Jeff mentioned a downloadable Hector the Protector icon that parents can put on their computer screens to encourage safe Internet use. Here is an excerpt about the button from its website:
The button installs swimming Hector in the upper right-hand corner of the computer screen. If something worrying or upsetting comes on the screen, a child can just click on Hector who then covers the screen with a beautiful underwater scene and gives the child a positive message for clicking Hector, while encouraging them to get adult help.
I like this concept because it encourages communication between child and parent and rewards the child for making a good choice rather than punishing him for accessing an inappropriate site (especially if was truly by accident which is usually the case with very young children.)
Unfortunately, the Hector button will not be available for Macintosh computers until later this year but it is available for download on PCs now. Try it out and let me know what you think!!
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
I cannot believe it has been nearly two months since I have posted to this blog. Summer vacation, swim lessons, baseball games, soccer games, a new kindergartner, a little brother devastated that big brother is not at his preschool and the start of another semester have kept me pretty busy! I know –poor excuses - many of you are as busy if not busier than me. I plan to stay on track with at least a post a week until Christmas.
Speaking of, that holiday is not too far away and, possibly, your child would like to open a new digital camera!!! In a previous post entitled “If you give a kid a digital camera..”, I mentioned the possible stresses associated a child dropping, flushing, punting or otherwise destroying a camera worth hundreds of dollars.
One relatively new, reasonably price and durable solution is V-Tech’s Kidizoom digital camera. The camera is designed for young children and includes the ability to connect to a TV or PC, simple photo editing options, digital video capability, a few games and interchangeable faceplates that allow children to change the look of the camera.
Parental reviews on the Internet are positive and many blogs suggest this will be a hot item during the holiday season. As of this posting, none of the toy stores listed in Gainesville’s Yellow Pages are carrying it but I recently ordered one online from Toyrus.com for $69.43 ($59.99 + $5.69 shipping + 3.75 tax).
I am quite excited to watch my boys open this gift on Christmas day and am even more excited to see what they do with it! After all, "if you give a kid a digital camera" he'll probably surprise you with his ingenuity.