Beyond "likes" - Exposing your kids to the BEAUTY of the Internet

As an educator in the field of parenting and digital technology I spend a lot of time thinking about all the potential pitfalls that our kids might encounter as they become citizens of the online world - and to be sure there are many. But, I also try to remind myself that it’s equally important to acknowledge all the wonderful things that the digital world has to offer.

I’ve truly come to believe that one of the most beneficial things a parent can do for their child in this day and age is to find the positive online, become curious and engage. Showing our children that amazing things exist in the online world beyond selfies and snapchat can excite, inspire and help guide them on the right track. So with that in mind, I put together some examples of pro-social, positive influences online that I would feel good about introducing to my own kids. Obviously there are thousands of websites out there and each parent needs to do their own research based on their child’s interests (music? Sports? Art? books?) the thing I like about these sites is that parents will enjoy them just as much as their kids - a great way to start bonding and opening up those lines of communication around digital media.

 

Time magazine has an amazing journalism site for kids. It is filled with wonderful articles on all different subjects from volcanos to how a dog’s brain thinks to inspiring tales of survival from Hurricane Irma. The other cool thing they offer is a read aloud option, a spanish option and the option to print out the articles.

 
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Cool, fun and empowering! In their own words, “Founded by artist Amy Poehler and producer Meredith Walker, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls organization is dedicated to helping young people cultivate their authentic selves. We emphasize intelligence and imagination over “fitting in.” We celebrate curiosity over gossip. We are a place where people can truly be their weird and wonderful selves. We are funny first, and informative second, hosting the party you want to attend.” Enough said : )

 
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This site is so cool. There are mini documentaries about strange animals, tips for taking great photos, games about geography - just so much to explore. Animal Jam, their online multiplayer game for kids 10+ gets some pretty mixed reviews from Common Sense Media as well as parents who have so I’d probably steer clear.

 

This guy really gets it. He put together this site to show his kids all the amazing stuff online that is, “not-made-for-kids, but perfect for them.” There are amazing animations, videos of people doing super cool and weird stuff, technology, science, dance, music. All the wonderful and strange things that humans create. Fun and super inspiring.

 
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For all the Harry Potter fans out there, this is a great destination. There are wonderful articles by J.K. Rowling, in depths looks into characters, spells and creatures and even a book club. A few features require creating a login so best to do this with your child and use your own email.

So that’s a teeny little sampler of what’s out there for kids - pretty cool stuff, right? My kids are still too young to be browsing online by themselves, but if your child is older, why not ask them to show you some sites that they like? They'll be flattered that you asked and who knows, you might discover something really great.

Before I leave you to your own exploring I’ll just mention one more thing. For parents with tweens -  consider taking some time to share with them all the amazing social movements that have brought awareness to important causes through the collective power of social media. When used for good social media can unite and change the world for the better.  Some examples you can site are the Women’s March on Washington (the largest single day protest in US history!!!), the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (in just two months they raise over $100 million dollars for research!!!), the Arab Spring (9 out of 10 Egyptians say they used Facebook and Twitter to organize protests and communicate during this civil war).

Turns out social media isn’t all bad after all. While it often feels like we live in a completely self obsessed and materialistic age, there are actually quite a few people out there trying to do good. As parents we can help our kids get a broader picture of the world and their role in it by sharing the ways in which social media can enhance and enrich our lives beyond how many “likes” we’ve received that day.