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Site Seer: Web sites let kids chat, learn, get published

In this story: February 27, 1997
Web posted at: 7:00 p.m. EST

From CNN Interactive Writer Kristin Lemmerman

(CNN) -- If there's a child in your family over 10 years old, chances are you've heard a lot about how he or she is using the Internet at school. Maybe your young students log on to research reports, to keep up on current events or to talk to students in other countries.

At home, kids can also find plenty on the Internet to entertain them, much of it catered specifically to their age group. If you have a middle school-age child or kids in their first year of high school, there are plenty of sites to select from -- all of them kid-safe.


One such site, Cyberteens, emphasizes user participation. It includes an e-zine, most of which is composed of essays written by teenagers; an art gallery and music room filled with works submitted by kids; and extensive message board-type chat areas, all populated, of course, by kids.

Chat may be the only Internet feature your teen or pre-teen is interested in using outside of school. On Cyberteens, most of the chat takes place in the general chat area, where kids try to meet new people and look for pen pals ("keypals," as they are called here).

Cyberkids shares some Cyberteens content

However, there are several more specific topic areas (society, technology, and the arts, for starters).

In theory, one could post a message in the appropriate area, and it would be contemplated by other young people who are actually interested in that subject. Or, the discussion could degrade into 15 people telling the world, "I really want a keypal."

Cyberteens' sister site, Cyberkids, shares some content, including the Young Composers page and the Shockwave movies. It also has its own, smaller magazine, its own chat room (not as heavily used as the one on Cyberteens), and a reading room. Graphics are heavily used on both sites, but they may be slow downloads on anything less than a 28.8 modem.


MiddleZine Magazine, like Cyberteens, gets the bulk of its contributions from young students at Hudson Middle School in Hudson, Ohio. They also designed and launched the site.

Among the offerings are short stories, poems, movie and book reviews. Since the reviews are written by students, they tend to cover things that other students would enjoy. For example, the site's book review editor, one Skylar Sutton, is currently reviewing every book from the sci-fi/fantasy writer David Eddings. Meanwhile, the current movie review is for "Independence Day."

'Edge' features news you can use

Although many of the items are written by Hudson Middle students, those students really want other people to contribute, too. They actively seek out submissions from other students, wherever they may be, and they get them. In their latest issue, they have pieces from kids as far-flung as Russia, Australia and The Netherlands.


While FishNet is mostly designed for high-school students, it is still full of materials that bright younger people can also enjoy. The site's magazine, "Edge," features plenty of "news you can use." For example, its current issue has an article on how Ebonics will actually affect schools, along with ideas on things kids can do with their spare time.

Among other offerings are games in the Study Break area, including a spirograph and virtual chess (you play other people, not the computer), and bulletin boards where you can chat with other kids about light issues like music, and heavy ones like religion.

The site's target audience is intelligent 17-year-olds, so it follows that younger kids will not be interested in all of it. Information for college-bound high school students, for example, will be a bit over the heads of most 10-year-olds. But the layout is creative, and the articles are too.

Kidship site has a 'Psychic Alien'


The Kidship site, from Virgin Sound and Vision, is very younger-kids oriented, offering software based on the "Peanuts" comic strip and "Jonny Quest" computer games.

There is also a place for kids to vent about school and what they see in the media, and a "Psychic Alien" which answers whatever question your child types in. Kids can even create their own Web pages through the site, and find pen-pals (provided it's OK that they give out their e-mail address).

Up to a point, the site is also a plug for Virgin-owned games software. However, many of the games are set up to allow you as much play as you want for free, as long as you stay on the site and have a Shockwave plug-in.

A note to parents: If you're feeling left behind in this new technology, you might enjoy reading the "Space Guide" linked off the site's front page. It explains how the Web works, what all those different file formats mean and tells you where to get some of the basic software that makes the Web more fun.

Not sure? Click here to compare your configuration with each site's browser requirements


Related sites:

The World Kids Network -- Colorful, but badly organized; includes live chat (requires Java) and some different games (may require plug-ins).

Sarah's site of ultimate coolness -- An excellent example of how one teenager can express herself on the Web. Maybe your kids, like this girl, can write their own pages.

Sports Illustrated for Kids -- If your kid is interested in sports, he or she will surely enjoy this site. Articles written specifically for the youth crowd. (This site is owned by CNN Interactive's parent company, Time Warner.)

Kids' Planet Homework Helper -- Extensive list of links to help find information on world history, art history, science, math, grammar and even several different languages.

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