We warn our children not to talk to strangers, but how do we protect them when there are online resources set up specifically for them to make new friends? Forbes has a thoughtful piece about Club Penguin, a social networking site for school-age children.
Successful sites like Club Penguin have made child safety a primary goal, and by most accounts, parents are comfortable letting their little Penguins roam about the Town. Penguins can “chat” with other penguins in two ways: by selecting pre-written phrases, especially useful for the spelling-challenged age group, or by upgrading to “Standard Safe Chat” which enables users to create their own messages but filters them to block inappropriate language or personal information.
Resources like the Family Online Safety Institute and Common Sense Media help families talk about rules to keep kids safe online. Just like you talk to kids about rules for crossing the street and making sure they are neither a bully or bullied, it is essential that families discuss the difference between online and real friends and the importance of keeping private information private.
Remember the class television series “Davy and Goliath?” The stop-motion animation children’s show about the little boy and the dog who spoke to him was owned by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and produced by Art and Ruth Clokey of “Gumby.” The gentle parables about sharing, tolerance, and obedience included episodes that featured Davy’s friends Nathaniel and Jonathan, among the first black characters on television to be friends of a lead white character. Episodes of the classic “Davy and Goliath” series are now available online via SpritClips.
Common Sense Media has a great list of the best apps to encourage young readers. This is a wonderful way to introduce children to the pleasures of books. I was especially taken with Icarus Swinebuckle. Parents can read aloud, with the text highlighted as they go to help children begin to recognize the words. Then, when they begin to read on their own, they can tap on any word they do not know and hear it said aloud. And I love the way it is inspired by the classic story from Greek mythology.
Smartphones and tablets may have transformed the lives of adults, but the impact they will have on learning for children and older kids will be even greater.
If you’ve always wanted to create a world out of Legos, here is your chance! Lego has released a massively mulitplayer online game that makes you the hero as you work with thousands of others to extinguish chaos and save imagination. I have one copy of Lego: Universe to give away to the first person to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with LEGO in the subject line to tell me which Lego project is the best — and don’t forget your address!