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Teach Online Search Safety

Most people learn to use search engines through trial and error. But for a 9-year-old who doesn’t type or spell well, the challenge is too much without your help. Here are ways to help kids search effectively and responsibly.
 

Kid-Friendly Search Engines

Additional Resources

Great Homework Help Websites

Several search engines have kid-friendly graphics and return fewer, more targeted results than Google. Consider setting one of them as your home page so your kids have ready access. Good choices include Ask Kids, Fact Monster, GoGooligans, Quintura and RedZ.

Teach Skills

Sharpening your child’s computer-related skills will help her become abetter online researcher.

Encourage keyboarding skills. Children who have to hunt and peck are at a disadvantage when they search. Mavis Beacon Keyboarding Kidz for ages 7 & up turns typing lessons into a game.

Stress spelling. Even the best search engine won’t find what your child can’t spell. Help your child master phonics and other spelling skills.

Explain how search engines work. Researchers have found that kids assume whatever shows up at the top of a search is the “best” result. Explain that, on the Internet, it’s important to do critical browsing to find the best information, and because many websites try to sell a product or a point of view.

Teach a few tricks. Help kids brainstorm for the keywords that will pinpoint the information they want. Be specific (parrots instead of birds). Use the most important words first. Put quotes around words that should appear together, such as names. Add the search term “FAQ” to searches for basic information or “News” when looking for current events.

Parent Practices

These measures will help your child search safely.



Explain how search engines work. Researchers have found that kids assume whatever shows up at the top of a search is the “best” result. Explain that, on the Internet, it’s important to do critical browsing to find the best information, and because many websites try to sell a product or a point of view.

Teach a few tricks. Help kids brainstorm for the keywords that will pinpoint the information they want. Be specific (parrots instead of birds). Use the most important words first. Put quotes around words that should appear together, such as names. Add the search term “FAQ” to searches for basic information or “News” when looking for current events.

Turn on the controls. If your child prefers adult search engines, use filters. For Google or Yahoo, go to Preferences and select SafeSearch. For Bing, it’s Preferences, then Adult Content Filter.

Learn about your child’s searches. The computer program Norton OnlineFamily keeps parents updated on kids’ onlineactivities, including searches. Parents can make a list of unacceptable search terms and the software will warn children if they are about to cross the line.

Anticipate problems. Cybercrooks trick people into downloading viruses by setting up sites related to celebrities. Tell young children not to download photos or other items from celebrity sites without permission. Remind them that it isn’t okay to copy words, music or pictures without their owner’s permission.

Carolyn Jabs is a former contributing editor of Family PC magazine and mother to three computer savvy kids.    

 

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