Web Companion Extra: Search Sites for Kids

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If you have children old enough to use Macs, you've probably worried about how to make sure that they avoid some of the Web's seamier districts. One approach is the one that Apple is taking as part of its iTools Web products. KidSafe is a list of Web sites approved for kids by Apple's panel of educators and librarians. KidSafe works with Mac OS 9's Multiple Users feature as a gateway for approved sites. You can also buy filtering software that accesses a database of prohibited sites, but such software is always playing catch up behind the rapid expansion of the Web.

Kids need to search the Web, but with many search sites, it's all too easy for a simple search to end up at an adult site, or one with violence or profanity. Most parents (always the best arbiter of what their kids should see) don't have the time to sit with their kids the whole time they're on line, so it's nice to know that there are search sites that keep kids in mind.

Ask Jeeves for Kids

The best thing about Ask Jeeves for Kids ( www.ajkids.com ) is that it thinks like kids do. My expert tester (my 11-year-old son) typed in plain-English questions, rather than keywords, and got good answers. For example, when he typed in "Where can I find out about Pokemon," he got pointers to a bunch of useful sites, including the Game Boy pages, sites about the cartoons, and a rundown of the card game. Alas, my own search did not turn up any sites that told me when this fad would fade, nor how much it would cost me before it does.

Like the regular Jeeves site, my son's question was matched up with a question template from the millions that Jeeves already had on file, then the site came back with the pre-selected answers. Though Ask Jeeves for Kids came back from the query with a list of possible answers, the list was short, which made it easy to pick the one that seemed to be the best answer to the question. Because Jeeves' staff vets the questions and the answer sites, relevancy was excellent.


Looking at Yahooligans ( www.yahooligans.com ), you get the feeling that when it grows up, it's going to be just like the main Yahoo site. Like the parent site, it has a directory broken up into categories and subjects, with a query box front and center on the page. Your child can click on a directory entry to drill down to the information they want, or they can type in keywords to search the directory for faster results.

As you would expect, the Yahooligans directory doesn't include many of the sites in the main Yahoo directory. The directory's categories are quite different, too. The homework oriented School Bell category is especially useful.

Contributing Editor TOM NEGRINO wrote " The Macworld Web Searcher's Companion " in the May 2000 issue of Macworld.
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