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Re: [vox] Web Browsers for Kids
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Re: [vox] Web Browsers for Kids

On Dec 20, 2006, at 9:12 PM, Micah Cowan wrote:

I'd be interested in finding a Firefox-like browser that disables
opening new windows and tabs, fills the entire screen (ideally), and if
possible allows restricting access to specifically enabled sites.

I have a 4-year-old and 6-year-old, both of whom are starting to enjoy
web access to sites like pbskids.org. I don't want them to be able to
click links to get to any sites we haven't checked out; and I've noticed
that at least one of them tends to end up with 8 open windows sometimes.
I obviously don't want to edit /etc/hosts or do anything that will
restrict other users like my wife and myself.

As a father of two myself (8 and 3), I have some experience with this.

At pbskids.org, they do a nice job of keeping the games in a single window. This is new. At one point every game opened in a new (usually pop-up) window and I would see the same problem you are describing - new windows all over the place. It's tough to teach a 4- year-old about alt-tab and the meaning of focus. At nickjr.com (for example), there is definitely a problem with multiple new windows.

I don't know of a way to get off of pbskids.org and onto an offensive site. On the other hand, nickjr.com has all sorts of ads that can lead the kids to all sorts of new, questionable places - such as the sites for McDonalds and other (IMO) nasty corporate sponsors. The place you start off really makes the experience work. pbskids.org and yahooligans (kids.yahoo.com) have proven themselves to me as safe places to start. I've been frustrated with most other kid-oriented sites. For example, my 8 year old likes lego.com, but that site has both the new window problem and the offsite link problem.

No technology can replace direct supervision. I'm not preaching here; I've learned this through a lot of trial and error, always having to resist the urge the plug the kids in and go do something else. That doesn't mean you can't get some work done on your laptop while you glance over every now and then to make sure they haven't found their way over to onto some other site you don't like.

This whole scenario has become more of a problem as my older son has become able to take real advantage of the power of the "real" tools like wikipedia and Google. Instead of giving him my layman's definition of what DNA is (this is real example from this morning), we look it up together. Sometimes this kind of exercise requires braving the less kid-safe sites...

I'd also be very interested in a desktop environment built for kids, so
that they can pick their favorite apps, but can't interact with the
desktop or delete files accidentally.
I second the vote the Kiosk tools in KDE. I built a very specific and refined e-mail station for my mother-in-law out of an old laptop this way.

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