Monday, November 23, 2009


I can’t thank Momma Snail over at The Snail’s Trail enough. She’s not aware that she has changed my life, but so she has.

She posted a few days ago about a web browser for kids. At the time, I glanced at it, thought, ‘Hmmm, cool.’ And that was pretty much it.

But I was home from school today with the boy and, after getting done entering my students’ grades, I decided to give it a whirl. Man, this thing is cool. After getting it installed on Harrison’s computer*, I looked through it to see what all it had going for it. Y’all, there is any and every sort of kid-friendly internet based thing automagically installed on this thing. Dozens of websites aimed at kids, and not toy websites, but stuff like! YouTube videos that have been vetted and found to be kid-friendly. Better yet, the videos come up in a format that the kids can’t get into, so they can’t go from, say, a School House Rocks video to someone farting ‘I’m Just a Bill.’ And the channels of videos—science, how-to, funny stuff, animals—are just really cool.

Best of all, as a parent, you can moderate what your child sees. If you decided that the vetted videos or websites or games or whatever are not appropriate for your child, you can easily block them through the parent portal. You can also add your own sites—I added and Harrison’s teacher’s class website, as well as our family’s photo site.

I’ve been avoiding the email thing with Harrison for a long time, too, because I just didn’t want the burden of all the crap that goes along with it. Through this browser, though, I was able to set up an account for him, tell from whom he may receive and to whom he may send email and I can actually read the emails he sends and receives. There will come a day when that’s a trust issue and I’m going to have to back up and give him room, but for right now, I think it’s just about perfect. The email itself can be actual text or a picture—it’s kind of like a Paint program.

The basic package is free, but I’m seriously considering the upgrade. It’s $50 a year, but for that, you get some avatar stuff (meh—who cares?), some more email options (more drawing tools, that sort of thing—whatever), but most importantly, you get a timer built in that tells your kid when your predetermined time limit is up as well as statistics you can parse to see if your little angel is spending too much time on the interweb.


*Yes, the boy has his own computer now. It’s kind of a Franken-computer, with parts accumulated from several different sources, but it’s got a newer version of Windows and runs at least as fast as my laptop. He’s allotted 30 minutes to an hour each day, depending on behavior and day of the week (weekend days get longer times than school days, ‘natch).

It’s 2009—what else were we going to do?

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