Lori Getz: I love summer break, but I have to tell you that, as a teacher, I am always concerned with the break in learning. Learning is a skill that needs to be practiced! For those parents with elementary-age children who want to keep the learning moving, here are some educational online options for you!
This is a great math game wherein you can compete against other players from around the world. You can create a username that does not give away personal information, and you CAN'T chat with the other players. Kids can practice addition, subtraction, multiplication and division at different levels, and it's FREE through the month of June!
One of my favorite games! Pins drop on different cities across the U.S. or the world; you have to pick the city, state or country before your opponent does in order to receive maximum points. With this one, there is no login needed and no chat component, either.
All types of learning: http://funschool.kaboose.com
Here you have everything from math and science to language arts. There are even some great games that build analytical skills and social awareness. There is no login and no chat component -- just LOTS of fun and educational games. Here are direct links to some of my favorites, including a game about recycling, a game that enhances typing skills and a problem-solving game that requires you to move blocks. (Watch out: It's tough!):
Remember, the Internet is a fabulous resource when used appropriately. However, young children should NEVER be left alone at the computer to play these games -- and older children should have safeguards in place.
For safe and appropriate use, try implementing these parental controls:
1) Keep the computer in a public space in the home.
2) Consider sitting with young children while they play. It can be a fun activity for the both of you, as well as a safety measure. (You have to remember that, while online, children are just one click away from being exposed to potentially dangerous and inappropriate content.)
3) Install filtering software. We cannot be at our children's sides 24/7, but this is the next best option. You can even set it up so that the user can ONLY access pre-approved websites that you have added to a list. Macs have built-in filtering software, and you can purchase third-party filtering software for the PC. (Check out http://internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com for a list of options for the PC.) Remember, though: Filtering software will ONLY work at the computer where it is installed. It's a great way to set up expectations and teach children that not everything on the Internet is meant for them; however, it won't keep them safe at other computers that are not filtered!
4) Limit online use. Children should not sit at the computer for more than 30 minutes at a time. Prolonged computer use can cause repetitive stress injuries that affect hands, eyes, necks, backs and wrists.
Have a great summer -- and have fun SAFE-surfing the Internet!