Kids Connected

Children and teens are among the most active web users today, and with good reason. This generation has grown up in a digital world, with access to computers at school and at home. Encouraging your child to become comfortable and familiar with the web from early on will help them as they tackle schoolwork and, later, the workforce.

Explore some of these kid-friendly sites that are fun and educational, and learn how to teach your children how to use the computer and access the web.

Make sure to also read Protecting your Family in the Stay Safe section.

Kid Friendly Sites

Boy with computer

Suessville:  Dr. Suess fans will enjoy playing these online games. Print out activities and take them with you.

Disney Online:  Play games, watch videos, and interact with your favorite Disney characters.

There are also sites for fans of Sesame Street: Sesame Workshop and Nickelodeon: Nick.com

National Geographic Kids:  Learn about the world and other cultures, as well as the animal kingdom and other fun science topics.

NASA: Best for older kids, this site contains information on all of the space agency's programs, an online library, and exhibits on recent space phenomena, such as the comets, Hubble Telescope, MIR, and the Galileo spacecraft.

Library of Congress:  View an art collection or see a special event that is taking place at the Library. With amazing graphics are amazing, this site also provides a great beginner's guide to the Internet.

White House tour for kids:  Take a tour of the White House and learn a great deal of history and information on the White House and U.S. government in a fun, informative way.

Using the web to plan family activities

Boy with computerThe web can be a great resource for parents looking for local activities and events for the family.

GoCityKids is a city guide and family management tool for parents. It gives you shortcuts to the city at its best-parks, stores, professional services, restaurants, babysitters, places to stay, and entertainment, among other highlights. GoCityKids highlights the non-touristy attractions, child-friendly restaurants, and safe areas to play.

And if you’re looking for fun and inexpensive weekend activities check out your local zoo's website. You can learn about coming attractions and events and even receive special discounts. They also provide a fun place for kids to learn more about their favorite animals and even discover some new ones.

San Diego Zoo
Los Angeles Zoo
Oakland Zoo

Tips for teaching your children to use the computer

Ages 2-3:

Computers need not play much of a role in the youngest child's life. However, it doesn't hurt for very young children to see family members using computers and enjoying themselves online at a library, at a community center, or at home.

At this time, stand-alone computers using CD-ROMs or other software (rather than online activities) are most likely to have what children this age need. Parenting magazines and some nonprofit organizations publish reviews of software that may be helpful.

Tips

  • Put your child in your lap as you "play" on the computer.
  • Put your hand on your child's to show him or her the way the mouse works.
  • Children like to play with the equipment: start slowly letting them learn about the keyboard (some are especially designed for children), the mouse, etc.
  • Look for books and children's video programs like Sesame Street that include images of children and family members using a computer.

Ages 4-7:

While serious computer use isn't a priority for these youngsters, children at this age can begin to make greater use of computer games and educational products. Once again, parents of children this age can look to CD-ROMs and other computer software for early computer learning. Older children in this age group can also begin exploring online children's sections with their parents. This kind of exposure with a young child is a great way for a parent to get involved with new media. Yes, children do learn intuitively and quickly, but at this age they still depend on parents for reading and interpreting directions. This makes a shared computer experience a valuable give and take experience.

As your child starts going to school get in the habit of asking for the schools website and teachers’ email address. The web can be very useful for coordinating with teachers on the progress of your child in class and how you can best supplement their learning at home.

Tips

  • Spend as much time as you can with your child while he or she uses the computer.
  • Use actual experiences to demonstrate proper behavior and rules.
  • Show lots of tangible results and achievements. For example, print work your child has done on the computer.
  • Share an e-mail address with your child, so you can oversee his or her mail and discuss correspondence.
  • Look to librarians and various parenting magazines for suggestions of good online activities.
  • Ask teachers for the school website and their email address so you can stay on top of your child’s education and reinforce what they’re learning at school in the home.

Ages 8-11:

This age is when children can begin to directly experience and appreciate more fully the potential of online experiences. Children can begin to use online encyclopedias and download pictures and graphics for school reports. They can also begin to have pen pals from many places, exchanging stories with far-away relatives and online friends, and even doing shared school projects.

It is also a very important age to set guidelines, teach values, and monitor closely what children are doing. As children move toward independence, it is important that you stay "hands-on" and help guide them to enriching and appropriate materials.

Another important reality is that children of this age are being targeted by programmers and advertisers as an important commercial market. Media literacy, helping children evaluate content and understand what's behind advertising, is an important skill to teach.

Tips

  • Set very clear rules for online use and clear consequences if they are broken.
  • Instruct children not to order products or give out information about themselves or their family without your permission.
  • Teach children to let you know if they encounter anything scary or unusual online.
  • Help children understand the nature of commercial information and how to think about it.
  • Discuss some of the unique aspects of behavior in cyberspace, like anonymity and what it means for your child and for others.
    • Watch the time. Use an alarm clock or timer if you or your child lose track of time.
  • Ask teachers for the school website and their email address so you can stay on top of your child’s education and reinforce what they’re learning at school in the home.

Ages 12-14:

At this age, young people can use the more sophisticated research resources of the Internet, accessing everything from the Library of Congress collection to magazines and newspapers to original letters and archives from around the globe. Similarly, they can work with people in remote places on shared projects and can learn from speaking online to leading authorities on nearly any subject. In addition, many young teenagers are interested in "chatting." Most online commercial services have chat rooms that are appropriate for preteens and teenagers. There, kids can chat (via typing on their computer) to others who share their interests. A parents' job is to stay in as close touch as possible (a tough task at times).

Tips

  • Since children this age are more likely to explore on their own, set up clear parental rules, limits, and periodic check-ins.
  • Continue to explore together as much as possible.
  • Give children a basic understanding of the laws governing online behavior and the consequences of breaking them.
  • Set clear rules about time spent in chat groups and which ones are acceptable.
  • Be sure your children understand the actions that can be taken if people harass them online or do anything inappropriate.
  • Set a budget for online expenses and monitor it.
  • Pay particular attention to games that your teenager might download or copy. Many are great fun, but others are extremely violent. Parents need to set limits about what is acceptable and what is not.
  • Ask teachers for the school website and their email address so you can stay on top of your child’s education and reinforce what they’re learning at school in the home.

Ages 15-18:

The online world is a rich resource for older teens. They can receive information about job opportunities, internships, and colleges and universities; put together multimedia reports; get specialized help with a foreign language or a subject at school; and find out just about anything else that interests them. They are also ingenious explorers, discovering new areas online and often meeting new friends. Of course, along with teens' increased curiosity, capability, and freedom come more ways to run into unpleasant or undesirable experiences. As with other activities at this age, parents can still find creative ways to keep in touch with their teenage children about online activities, and this connection is still important.

Tips

  • Ask your teenager for help researching topics of interest to the family (follow-up on a family discussion, family vacation, a new purchase).
  • Talk to your teenager about new things online and encourage discussion of new experiences.
  • Make sure your teenager knows the legal implications of online behavior.
  • Watch time limits to make sure your teenager is still pursuing a well-rounded set of activities.
  • If your teenager is especially interested in computers, encourage him or her to help younger children with their online explorations (try the local Boys or Girls Club) or to help a school or nonprofit organization get set up.
  • Ask teachers for the school website and their email address so you can stay on top of your child’s education and reinforce what they’re learning at school in the home.

Accessibility Options for Children

For parents and teachers of children with disabilities there are hardware/software alternatives to help.  Please visit our Accessibility section to learn more.  Visit the following sites to learn more about services offered to the disabled in an area of California closest to you:

Center for Accessible Technology: Berkeley, CA
EmpowerTech: Los Angeles, CA
iTech – Parents Helping Parents: San Jose, CA
Kern Assistive Technology Center: Bakersfield, CA
San Diego Assistive Technology Center: San Diego, CA
Team of Advocates for Special Children: Anaheim, CA
TransAccess: San Jose, CA
Assistive Technology Exchange Center (ATEC): Santa Ana, CA