Magazine article Information Today

Search Sites for Your Kids

Magazine article Information Today

Search Sites for Your Kids

Article excerpt

A child's first word, step, and bike ride. Now we can add another milestone to the list of great childhood moments: first Internet search.

It's probably a good idea to teach children how to use search sites on the Web soon after they learn how to use a computer. After all, search engines and online directories will likely play a big role in their lives -from researching colleges and universities to gathering facts and figures on potential employers to finding towns and cities where they may want to live.

Teaching kids about search skills also is a good first step in information literacy. Lessons on using search engines can be quickly followed by lessons on evaluating search results. Kids need to learn early how to judge the usefulness, quality, and credibility of online content.

Of course, it's not a good idea to let a child loose on the Internet and use the same search engines as grown-ups do. Chances are much of the information they find will be too advanced, and some could be inappropriate or even down-right disturbing.

As Chris Sherman, associate editor of SearchEngineWatch.com, pointed out, "Allowing children unfettered access to the [W]eb is a really bad idea. It's hard enough for an experienced adult to avoid spam, porn, and other unsavory content on the Web. Fortunately, there are some outstanding services that not only steer kids clear of the nasty stuff, but also help them find age-appropriate information."

Yahooligans!

Filters can be set up on popular search sites such as Google and Yahoo! to help keep kids away from objectionable online content. Visit http://searchenginewatch.com/links/ article.php/2156191 for information on the filter options available on these search sites.

But, as SearchEngineWatch also noted: "These filters are not perfect. Some material does get past them, and some safe material may get filtered out."

Better bets for teaching kids how to find information on the Internet-including resources that can help with homework-are sites designed just for them. The oldest major directory for kids is Yahooligans! (http://www.yahooligans.com), which was launched in March 1996.

Yahooligans! is abrowsable and searchable directory of Web sites checked by educators to ensure that the content and links are appropriate for children between the ages of 7 and 12.

According to the site's editors, "There are a whole bunch of reasons why you might find a site in here. Yahooligans sites are cool, goofy, fascinating, fun, hysterical, philosophical, surprising, sedate, silly, seismic, popular, obscure, useful and, ummmm ... interesting. For whatever reason. What gets plopped onto the REJECT list? Sites that are sleazy, slimy, snarly, paranoid, hateful, hideous, harmful, pornographic, or prejudiced. We don't like 'em. And neither do Yahooligans!."

When a child searches the site, he or she is searching categories, site titles, URLs, and directory comments to find listings in the Yahooligans! database that contain all of the child's search words. Unlike search engines for grown-ups, Yahooligans! does not search the text of sites.

Still, Yahooligans! is a great place to find kid-friendly information on everything from math to the solar system to aardvarks. In fact, a search for "aardvarks" generated nine hits, including links to photos and video of the animal.

Yahooligans! also offers other fun and educational features, including games, sports, and news pages. There's a reference section, and guides are available for parents and teachers who want to help their charges safely navigate the online world. You also might want to check out the site's links to information on Web browsers designed just for kids (http:// yahooligans.yahoo.com/parents__guide/ browsers_for_kids).

Jeeves for the Younger Set

Another great place for children to look for information is Ask Jeeves for Kids (http://www.ajkids.com). According to an online note, the site "uses naturallanguage technology that allows kids to ask questions, such as "Why is the sky blue? …

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