Web Browsers for Kids
Letting young children explore the Internet on their own is no longer an option. There are millions of inappropriate web sites and some of the worst are just a typo away – literally an accident waiting to happen!
One solution is to install strict filtering software, but that presents its own set of problems: a) filters are not foolproof; it's easy for inappropriate content to slip through, particularly embedded video, and b) it's a hassle to constantly switch back and forth between accounts or content settings when the computer is used by other family members.
A far better solution would be to throw away the existing Internet and build a new one just for kids! This is exactly what a number of kid-friendly browsers have set out to do. No more worrying about stumbling across pornographic web sites or violent videos. All the content accessible within these browsers has been pre-screened and pre-approved as appropriate for kids. Here are three of the more browsers:
Kidzui was one of the first – and most ambitious – kid browser projects. Now in its sixth year of existence, Kidzui has built a huge database of web sites, games, photos and videos, all of which have been reviewed and approved by parents and educators. The Kidzui interface is very straightforward and kids can scroll through the ever-changing offerings or use the search bar to find their favorite topics. Parents can also enter a gender and age-range to make the content more relevant.
Kidzui also includes a limited range of community functions like tagging favorite web sites and videos and finding friends, although there are no chat, text or e-mail capabilities. A separate parents’ section allows you to monitor what your kids have been doing while on Kidzui and see exactly what web sites they have visited.
After a period of offering paid membership to enjoy "premium features," Kidzui is once again completely free. The site does carry advertising, which, although clearly marked, will be indistinguishable from the rest of the content to very young kids. However, Kidzui remains a great option for parents, with very simple download and execution tools. If you’re looking for plenty of choice with your peace of mind, then Kidzui won’t disappoint.
KIDO’Z is slightly less ambitious in scope than Kidzui but it has the advantage of being available for Android smartphones and tablets as well as PCs. It’s also clearly targeted at younger children, with the 3-7 age range being the sweet spot. Installation and registration takes just a few minutes and you’re up and running straight away.
Simplicity is the keyword for KIDO’Z. Activities are divided into three categories: web, video and games. There are dozens of kids’ web sites to visit, including all the usual suspects like PBS Kids, Dora, and National Geographic. There are also over 50 different games sites, many of them portals into dozens of individual games, both educational and just-for-fun. Rounding out the activities are a variety of video channels, including classic cartoons and a "how-to" channel.
KIDO’Z allows a brief trial period and then a monthly subscription of $4.99 is required. (Annual membership is discounted to $39.99.) If your child is pre-school age or in the early grades and has yet to develop an Internet wanderlust, then KIDO’Z is the perfect choice!
If you prefer to select your own sites rather than have someone else do it for you, then KidSurf might be the answer. The downloadable app can be customized for up to four different kids and parents choose exactly which sites are made available to each one. You can choose from a pre-set list of over 50 popular kids' web sites – Discovery Kids, PBS Kids, Cartoon Network, etc. – or add other sites manually.
Other features include a limited e-mail application and a usage timer. The site carries no advertising and pop-ups are blocked. Once you open the application, all other IE links are hidden, so you need to exit the app and re-open your browser to restore the previous session.
KidSurf runs on all MS Windows operating systems and is available for a 10-day trail, after which you pay a one-time license fee of $5.99.