Child Safety & Kid-Safe Internet Browsers
[Note: This post has been authored with the help of guest contributor, Sidhanth Venkatasubramaniam].
Internet safety is a material concern for parents as they constantly strive to counterbalance their children’s freedom of internet use with adequate oversight. This recent study conducted by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School suggests that parental fear of the internet may be vastly overblown. Nonetheless, parents must have recourse to a set of monitoring tools that facilitate effective oversight until children come of age. For age-wise parental guidelines and various issues related to child safety on the internet, WebAware is an excellent resource; this link on safety tips for age 8-10 is an excellent example. Of all the pearls of wisdom on that site, we would specifically like to underscore the importance of having frank and open discussions with children to make them aware of potential issues and dangers.
For children below the age of 10, adult supervision and guidance have no real substitute especially with respect to activities that require higher order thinking skills such as internet search. However, informal studies of behavioral dynamics in the 8 – 10 age ground suggest a rapidly increasing assertion of independence, especially given the comfort level these “digital natives” enjoy with digital technologies. Kid-safe internet browsers may be just the ticket to deal with such proclivities. Several kid-safe browsers are freely available on the internet, and represent an alternative to onerous installation of parental control software such as NetNanny, SafeEyes, Cybersitter, Cyber Patrol, all of which require you to cough up $30 – $50.
Most child-friendly browsers have similar feature sets (with a few minor variations)-
- The internet is restricted to a pre-approved universe of child-appropriate sites for games, entertainment, information and education
- Parents have the means to allow/restrict access to sites, and view details of their kids’ online activities
- Communication tools such as kid-safe email and chat, and safe social-networking communities for kids
- No advertising
KIDO’Z – The newest kid on the block, Kido’z boasts the ability to present content in one or more of 17 different languages, and at an “age-appropriate” level. The target age group for KIDO’Z is 3-7 (an age group that we feel is too young to be on the internet in the first place, and definitely not without an adult watching over them!). What makes the user experience richer with this application is its use of the new Adobe AIR platform. Given the young target age group, most of the user interface is iconic which means that children could potentially use this without knowing how to read or write.
KidZui – A popular kid-safe browser that is targeted at the sub-12 year age group. “Kids have the freedom to learn, play, search and discover over 2 million games, websites, videos and photos on their own. KidZui has the largest number of games, websites, videos and photos reviewed by parents and teachers anywhere.” KidZui sends a weekly email to parents that tells them what their kids are doing online. The KidZui parent account lets parents share content and set limits. Kidzui also comes as a Firefox add-on.
Glubble – Glubble is designed as a wholesome, fun and safe “whole family” internet experience for families with children under the age of 12. Unlike other kid-safe browsers, Glubble requires parents to pre-approve all the sites their children visit, and have the ability to add new sites at any time; the rationale being that “just as responsible parents select books to read to their children—and determine which TV shows their children can watch—with Glubble, parents can pre-approve all Web sites that their children can access.” Check out this informative video about how Glubble works.
Buddy Browser – Buddy Browser boasts no spyware or adware, safe “Buddy Messenger” for kids, no internet surfing, a kid-safe search within a universe of pre-approved sites for entertainment and education, a fun tool bar icons for games, movies, sports, e-cards, music, etc. and educational learning channels for Science, School, Nature, Animals & more. First released on Jan 1, 2008, Buddy Browser recently released a new version in March 2009.
KidRocket – KidRocket allows parents to set up a “time lock” for limiting a child’s time on the internet. The new version of KidRocket provides vocal prompts and confirmations for alerts and various security related operations, and also allows for art/e-Card attachments with their KidRocket email. It does appear to be restricted to a relatively smaller set of websites; check out the list here.