Untangling the World Wide Web: Safe and Educational Internet Resources for Children

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Our Learning at Home column provides ideas and resources for you to draw on at home to support, enrich, and expand learning. We extend thanks to Dr. Holfy Hertberg-Davis and Dr. Carolyn Callahan of the University of Virginia for coordinating this series of columns.

It is surprising how quickly and eagerly children are able to acquire knowledge. In the realm of technology, that alacrity is only outpaced by their curiosity. How does a computer work' Why is it called "the web?" Where can I find an answer to this question? How do I make my own webpage or blog? As with all tools, the Internet is only a means to an end. The Internet can help children express themselves and explore their world in teacher- or parent-directed ways, it can be even more effective when their explorations start with their own questions or end product in mind. The Internet may best be viewed as a conduit for a child's creativity and desire to investigate.

The information age has brought with it great advancements in technology and communication. Generally, these advancements are beneficial because they allow us to stay in contact with people far away, research more quickly and thoroughly, and find new ways to express ourselves and collaborate with others. While many children find these tasks simple, it may be more daunting for those who are not as familiar with computers, e-mail, chat rooms, web design, and blogging. And some are eager to learn more about the workings of these information age developments. Below are some resources that will help you and your children discover more about the Internet and its resources, as well as allow children to make their own indelible mark on the World Wide Web.

Basic Resources

Before any explorers venture out into uncharted territory, they should always take stock of what they know and try to learn more. These books and websites build a foundation of knowledge about what the Internet is, and how to use it. There are also some resources to help you ensure the safety of your children while on the Internet

How the Internet Works by Preston Gralla. (Indianapolis, IN: Que Books, 2007, ISBN 0789736268, $23.99, www. quepublishing.com).

This book illustrates graphically how the Internet really works. Starting with the beginning of the Internet and how information is transferred between computers, this resource then advances to an explanation of more modern technology such as Java and CGI scripting. The book also includes a section about how to set parental controls and ensure the security of your computer while browsing the Internet. This book is well suited for younger readers who want a simpler, graphics-based, description of the Internet.

The Information Revolution: The Not-for-dummies Guide to the History, Technology, and Use of the World Wide Web by J. R. Okin. (Winter Harbor, ME: Ironbound Press, 2005, ISBN 0976385740, $22.95, www.ironboundpress.com).

The Internet and the World Wide Web make it possible to connect people around the world. This book provides a compendium of information about the Internet and a retrospective history of the development of the World Wide Web as well as an introduction to its creators. This book is designed for older readers and is more complex than How the Internet Works.

Always Use Protection: A Teen's Guide to Safe Computingby Dan Appleman. (Berkeley, CA: Apress, 2004, ISBN 159059326X, $17.99, www.apress.com).

The name of this book says it all. There are numerous threats to the safety of children while they are on the Internet and this book provides comprehensive information about how children can stay safe while on the Internet and how parents can keep their children safe while they are surfing the Internet.

Searching and Researching

It seems as if it was long, long ago, when students were expected to use encyclopedias, books, and card catalogs to do their research. The Internet has streamlined researching activities and made information more accessible. …