Many families and educators let 8-year-olds begin to explore the Internet. Being able to search for interesting and useful information online is no less important than the ability to navigate a library or bookstore. Using search engines, evaluating websites, and, of course, reading online are invaluable skills that you can introduce your child to gradually.
Now is a good stage in your parenting adventure to educate yourself on what it means for our children to grow up as digital natives. Watch Growing Up Online, the acclaimed Frontline documentary to get a sense of their world. Visit the government-sponsored website On Guard Online to get comprehensive information about how to keep your child safe online, and to protect your computer from harmful viruses.
The Internet Contract
Before letting children use the Internet independently, parents can write an “Internet Use Contract.” When your child is 8 years old or shows an interest in being on the Internet without an adult sitting next to him, whichever comes first, is the time to write it. The site GetNetWise has several examples of contracts that you can adapt for your child. You should also purchase an Internet filter program for your computer; this is essential if you plan to let your child surf without you sitting next to her. Net Nanny, Cybersitter, and Safe Eyes are some of the name brands in this field.
Where to Read
Once your child is ready to safely surf, bookmark some of these popular sites for kids. These sites contain many pages of news and entertainment that will expand your child’s reading skills:
- The STACKS is Scholastic's kid-friendly website dedicated to books, reading, authors, and games.
- Scholastic Classroom Magazines constantly feature updated news features written at a child’s reading level.
- National Geographic Kids has videos, games, and many short articles about animals, countries, and more.
- Amazing Kids! is an online magazine that features the work of children. Your young writer can read the work of other kids and submit her own stories, jokes, or media reviews.
- Factmonster is a free reference site for students, teachers, and parents.
- Zoodles offers age-appropriate kids' games that make learning fun.
For more sites for your child to explore, check out the American Library Association’s list of Great Websites for Kids.