Preteens are huge fans of online games, fan sites, and social networking. Here’s what you need to know about staying safe, while promoting good online reading skills.
Passwords, History, and More
According to the Tweenren’s Online Privacy Protection Act, tweenren under age 13 are not allowed to have personal accounts on Facebook, Twitter, or other social networking sites. To have a login on YouTube, you also need to be age 13 or older. Despite that, many 11- to 13-year-olds list MySpace, YouTube, and Facebook as their favorite sites. To offer your tween an alternative, point him or her toward social networking sites that are specifically for younger kids.
As you set limits with your tween, make sure that she understands the law and your own family rules for using social networking, email, and instant messaging. Search for your tween’s name regularly on the most popular sites to see whether or not she has set up a new account. As much as it is your responsibility to make sure you tween is safe in the world outside your home, you also need to think about your tween’s online safety.
Reading for Fun
What do teens want to read online? At this age, many interests are divided by gender. Many teens (mostly girls) enjoy celebrity gossip. Reading volume and endurance — often best developed by reading something you are interested in — is an important part of reading development. Common Sense Media has a list of celebrity sites with parent-friendly reviews. To take your teen’s interest in celebrities to a critical thinking level, try MyPopStudio. This engaging site offers savvy media literacy activities that help your teen understand the techniques that go into the creation of celebrity journalism.
Many teens (mostly boys) enjoy sports sites. Complex, rich sites like NFL.com and MLB.com have new articles daily on sports news. While there are also videos and games that can keep your teens busy for hours, encourage them to read the news — the stats, quotes, and details will keep them in the know about their favorite players and teams.
Reading these sites is not a waste of time. Your teen is actually learning valuable skills. Using menus, navigating between pages, bookmarking pages, and skimming and scanning text are some of the reading and navigating techniques that he is developing and will serve him well in the future.
In addition to these websites, eBooks offer tweens and teens a fun way to explore many different subjects.
Reading for School
Of course, the Internet is the most important resource your teen has for doing research and reading to support his schoolwork. Familiarize yourself with your teen’s school resources on the web. Many teachers have a class blog, along with helpful links for your teen to use with school assignments.
For a list of reviewed reference sites, check out Great Web Sites for Kids, a list put together and reviewed by the American Library Association. Their selections cover history, math, science, languages, and more.