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Kidding around on the Web

February 7, 1997
Web posted at: 6:20 p.m. EST

From Interactive Staff Writer Liza Kaufman Hogan

(CNN) -- Some parents have actually managed, through great effort, to drag their children away from the television set. Then along comes the Internet to lure their kids toward another glowing screen. Is this a good thing? Yes and no.

Like television, surfing the World Wide Web can be a complete waste of time for children. But armed with a few good links, parents can ensure that their child's Internet experience is both fun and educational.

To get you started, we've located a few good general sites for kids ages 5-10. Younger children may enjoy these sites as well with a little help from their parents to help them read text and stay focused. Stay tuned for an article in the near future on sites for kids ages 10-15.

Keep in mind that in addition to these sites, some of the most engaging places for children on the Web are the home pages of zoos, museums and amusement parks, the types of places you might take your child off-line. So be sure to check out those as well.

Lots to do

screen grab - WorldVillage

WorldVillage Kidz, bills itself as a safe Web playground for kids. While the site advertises content for teen-agers, the games, puzzles and stories seem more appropriate for children at the elementary school level.

One of the site's more interesting features is a section called WonderKorner, where children can submit questions for an answer. The twist is that all the questions are answered with a link to the page providing the information requested. For example, if a child asks how zippers work, the question is posted and linked to a site on zippers and Velcro.

Get creative

screen grab - Jessica's Art

Kids' Space is a general-interest site for school-age children which is available in English- and Japanese-language versions. Don't miss the art and music sections. The Kids Gallery displays children's artwork and poetry, and the Open Air Concert features recordings of favorite songs played or sung by children.

Kids' Space also includes a guide to using the Internet, although some of the text would be incomprehensible to younger children. Parts of the site require the Shockwave and Live Audio plug-ins, but most of the content can be enjoyed without them.

It's a girl thing

A Girl's World, is a Webzine where girls can talk with other girls, find a pen- pal, learn crafts and read about notable women. Most of the articles are written by girls with assistance from adults. The site is recommended for readers ages 7-15.

screen grab - Girl's World Clubhouse

The centerpiece of the site is A Girl's World Clubhouse, an Internet gathering place lead by Rachel, Geri, Tessa and Amy, four friends who, according to the site, met during the 1994 Northridge earthquake in Southern California. The clubhouse is divided into four parts, with topics grouped according to the individual interests of the friends.

Excepting the Boy Scouts of America site, we found no sites specifically designed for boys, although WorldVillage Kidz has a list of suggested links for boys.

Around the world

screen grab - KidsCom

KidsCom has covered all bases in an engaging and easy to navigate site. Here children can find an e-mail pal, talk with other kids in a monitored chat room, play games, enter a writing contest and find out about other kid-friendly Web sites. There's also an area where parents and teachers can share information and pick up tips on computers and the Internet.

KidsCom is also one of the few sites with a true international focus. It is available in four languages: English, French, Dutch and Spanish. A map showing where KidsCom members reside indicates that there are children logging on from the four corners of the Earth, although Africa and Central America are sorely underrepresented.

Once upon a time ...

screen grab - Internet Public Library

Children who love stories will enjoy the Internet Public Library's Story Hour, a collection of stories written by both children and adults. Some are text only, others have pictures and sound.

Children who like to make up their own stories should pay a visit to The Never Ending Tale, an interactive tale-spinning site that allows children to invent their own stories or build on stories other children have written.

A note about online safety for children

Some parents may be uncomfortable letting kids surf unsupervised, fearing they will either come in contact with people who might take advantage of their children or see material that is inappropriate for viewing by younger audiences. For tips on making your child's journey through the Internet a safe and positive one, see Yahoo's primer on online safety for children.


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