The internet is a great place for kids to learn, but as is true of any resource, parental participation and guidance is a must. This information, provided by ParentLife magazine, is a great resource for parents. [See ParentLife, November 1997, LifeWay Press, Nashville, TN; for subscription information, email customerservice@bssb.com.]

Title_Q.gif (380 bytes) What benefits does the Internet offer my family?
Title_Q.gif (380 bytes) But aren't there also some Internet dangers that parents need to be aware of?
Title_Q.gif (380 bytes) What rules need to be set concerning children's using the Internet?
Title_Q.gif (380 bytes) Try These Web Sites For Starters
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The Internet--Friend or Foe?

By Bonnie Bruno

Title_Q.gif (380 bytes)What benefits does the Internet offer my family?

Title_A.gif (361 bytes)None - unless you enjoy travel, fun, adventure, and round-the-clock access to a multimedia research tool, in the comfort of your home! Is the Internet truly helpful, or just a lot of hype? Consider the following in light of your family's special interests and needs, then decide for yourself whether you'd benefit from taking the Internet plunge.

TRAVEL AND ADVENTURE. You say you've always wanted to visit Hawaii, but couldn't afford it? Forget packing suitcases and phoning ahead for reservations. The Internet can transport you there within seconds, where you'll view breathtaking photos and videos, and hear dozens of sound clips from the Islands. How about exploring a pyramid in Egypt, an Amazon rain forest, or your own state capitol? The Internet provides easy and quick access to locales both far and near, at the click of a mouse.

RESEARCH. It's seven o'clock on a cold winter night. Your child announces that he has to write a report about famous inventions and how they changed our world. The report is due in two days. You could bundle up and drive him to the library where he may or may not find enough material to put together a report. Or, using the Internet, he could simply type in the inventions he's after in a search engine, wait a few seconds, and find the information in less time than it would have taken you to warm up the car and drive to the library. Research possibilities abound on the Internet. Check out your family's genealogy, read old Civil War letters, or keep up with current activity at the White House. Learn why worms are important to our earth, view actual photos of our solar system, or listen to a collection of exotic frog calls.

FUN. One of the greatest pulls of the Internet is the steady stream of wholesome family fun.

Preschoolers will find a vast collection of web sites loaded with storybooks, games, finger plays and simple crafts. Older children will love the dot-to dot and coloring pages, games to play online and opportunities to interact with other boys and girls their ages through moderated kids-only chatrooms or e-mail pal clubs. Whole families torn "friendship rings" too, in which parents can communicate with other parents, with opportunities for their children to trade art work, stories, and e-mail.

SUPPORT. Does your child need a little extra help with math or spelling? Check out one of the web sites that offer homework help. Are you feeling frazzled by Friday, Mom and Dad? Sites like Parent Soup and Family.com provide advice, encouragement, and practical information about topics such as discipline, nutrition, religious training, and choosing the right pet.

Title_Q.gif (380 bytes)But aren't there also some Internet dangers that parents need to be aware of?

Title_A.gif (361 bytes)Sadly the negative publicity surrounding the 'Net often overshadows the riches that are ours for the mining. Television newscasts report web sites where bomb-making "recipes" are made available. Talk shows portray the Internet as a hangout for pornographers, stalkers, and con artists. But the Internet has many positives you just don't hear much about.

It is up to individual parents to enforce the standards they wish for their children to follow. The good news is that parents can maintain control over what their children access online.

Download filtering software on line or purchase it at a computer software store. Configure the software to match your child's interests and age level, and you’ll not have to worry about them accessing undesirable content while surfing the web.

Title_Q.gif (380 bytes)What rules need to be set concerning children's using the Internet?

Title_A.gif (361 bytes)Consistency is the first rule. Draw up a set of guidelines, perhaps as a pact between parent and child, and post them near the computer where they can be reviewed often. Consider the following:

1. I will never give out my full name, address, school name/location, or telephone number online.

2. If ever I run into something online that makes me feel uncomfortable in any way, I will tell a parent immediately.

3. I will stay away from news-groups and chatrooms unless my parent finds me one that is moderated for children only. A parent will stay close by during my visits there.

4. I won't let a friend use our computer without his or her parent's permission.

5. I will not use a friend's computer without my parent's permission.

6. I will abide by the time limitations that my parents set.

7. I will treat others online with the same courtesy that I treat my friends face to face.

With careful planning, thoughtful screening, and consistent monitoring, your family's Internet exploration can be a positive time of togetherness.

Bonnie Bruno is the author of Internet Family Fun (No Starch Press 1997). Her "Slices of Life" column featured at the WorldVillage site http://www.worldvillage.corn.

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Try These Web Sites For Starters!

bulletParental Control of the Internet -- http://www.worldvillage.com/wv/school/html/control.htm - get your free filtering software here!
bulletPitter Patter -- http://www.caro.net/~joespa/hspresch.htm - Crafts/games/activities for ages 3-5.
bulletGlobalearn -- http://www.globalearn.org/ - Travel the world with an expedition team! Ages 7+.
bulletCastles of the World -- http://fox.nstn.ca/~tmonk/castle/castle.html - Visit hundreds of castles worldwide! All ages.
bulletWonderKorner: A Place for Curious Kids -- http://www.worldvillage.com/kidz/wonder/index.html - Bring your curious questions here and return for answers. Ages 5+.
bulletWhat to Expect -- http://www.whattoexpect.com/ - Parents find support/friendship/information here, preconception through toddlers.
bulletFamily.com -- http://www.family.com/ - Reference for families, backed by 100-parenting magazines!
bulletKids' Quest -- http://www.ChristianAnswers.Net/kids/kidshome.html
Learn about our Creator by exploring His world! Geared for ages 5+.
bulletChildren's Bible Hour -- http://www.gospelcom.net/cbh/
Sponsored by the Gospel Communications network, this family site contains audio files of its well-known radio broadcasts, stories, devotionals, Bible studies, and a fur lively "Kids Talk!" section where kids can swap viewpoints. For all ages.
bulletKidz-Net -- http://www.mindspring.com/~emptyjay/Kidz-Net.htm
Here's a kids page with Bible-based fun!

Note: Sites listed above are subject to change in availability without notice.

Bonnie’s book, Internet Family Fun (No Starch Press, 1997), is an excellent guide to safe surfing on the Internet. Co-authored by Joel Comm, it contains 250 reviews of fun and informative sites, screened for age appropriateness and family-friendly content. For an online look at the book, go to http://www.worldvillage.com/familyfun/index.html.