When arranging a playdate, you always know where your child is going and who they’re playing with. You’d never let them go off unattended if there wasn’t a level of comfort and trust. Just like you’d never let your child go to a stranger’s house for a playdate, letting them visit sites that you haven’t personally previewed isn’t a good idea either.
The internet is a treasure trove of information that is great for adults but not always for children. Here are 4 things to look for when websites and online games for your child:
Easy to navigate with a user friendly layout. The first page should always fit on the computer screen and not require any scrolling. The page should be designed so that links to other pages are easy to find. The site doesn’t need to be complicated with moving images, lots of graphics or tons of text. Simple is better.
Age appropriate content. For a preschooler who is just beginning to read, there shouldn’t be an overwhelming amount of text that they will need to read in order to navigate the site. Activities and games should be just right for the child and not too difficult.
Few or no ads. With an abundance of ads, children are often enticed by the images such as fast food restaurants logos, favorite television characters, and toys. Children click on familiar images out of curiosity but can be easily led away from their game and on to another site. When this occurs, it’s like going down a rabbit hole that is hard to get out of. Not only is it is nearly impossible for a young child to navigate back to the original website, but the content can be questionable for young children. In a frenzy of clicking to try to return to the original website, it only takes a couple more clicks for a child to accidentally get to content that’s not appropriate for their young eyes or to a place where one more click will fill your home computer with viruses.
Trusted partner in education. These days companies are partnering to license their content both on and offline. Licensed merchandise available in retail stores helps young children act out their world with the characters they love and these same characters can often be found online. Online games with friends from television shows and books can help kids practice their skills in an interactive way. Look for trusted names in education such as Scholastic and PBS Kids that provide quality educational experiences through their websites.
Even if the sites meet the criteria above, by no means should your child be left unattended while playing online. Always keep an ear out and an eye on what they’re doing to keep them safe and ensure that the content is fun rather than frustrating.