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What are the best child safe websites in 2014?

I have 2 nieces between the ages of 4 and 7 and the elder is already fluent with Google which I find equally amazing and alarming. When I search for kid's sites I find that a lot of the top results are spin-offs from television channels (like the nickelodeon and bbc kids sites). I have nothing against these but I'm interested in finding other sites that are more creative, fun and educational without having to reference television (which my nieces see enough of during the day anyway!) I want my time with them to be spent showing them really unique and interesting things that are appropriate for their age group. Do you guys have any ideas and recommendations on this? Thanks!

Seeking Opinion 6 months ago
Scott Todd
Scott Todd
SEO nerd
Belfast, GB

3 experts and 4 parents have answered

expert answer
Rob Zidar expert
Rob Zidar Co-Founder, ThirdParent US
E-safety expert

Hi Scott. I'm on the other side of the pond, but I do have a 6 year old daughter. In addition to the sites linked to the TV companies, two that she frequents are Club Penguin and Webkinz. Club Penguin has some free content and games, and other areas of the site require a subscription. A great thing about the Club Penguin subscription is that a parent must control 100% of the settings. Webkinz also is very safe (and entertaining) for 6 year olds. You are required to buy a small stuffed animal (it's cheap) with user ID code to get full functionality, but it has been worth it for us.

3 Reply Share:
Experience 6 months ago
expert answer
Chris Puttick expert
Chris Puttick CEO, chief assistant to the duck GB
E-safety expert

That's a surprisingly difficult question to answer in a useful way (sorry!). The nature of our business means we come into contact with lots of great content, but it's often mixed in with content not suitable for younger children ("family safe" is not a logical Internet concept...) so we can't just say "go to these sites" (not without Peepus helping control the content accessed there anyway ;) ).

Sites that focus on serving younger children with entirely free content, like Kideos, tend to become derelict because the original maintainers lose interest. To be fair "free to use" for this age group means it costs the operators money as well as time to maintain as they can't (shouldn't...) be gathering data they can sell, nor are they likely to do well with ads.

There are active sites out there which actively curate content of various types, which are a mix of fun and educational (sometimes on the same site!). The previous answer mentioned a couple; Poisson Rouge is another, as is Moshi Monsters; all of the ones mentioned have one common feature, other than their focus on younger children; they charge in some way.

A charge is inevitable , I think, because there's no other way to sustainably fund the maintenance and development of these sites, to ensure they remain safe environments as well as continue to work on new browsers, and to improve. Every time you encounter a rich, entertaining and educational site, ask yourself how is it making money? If it's good it'll have to make money somewhere because the costs of maintaining a site like that is non-trivial, even if the operators personally have the skills and time - running a popular site with lots of content will cost upwards of USD1000/month just in hosting fees. Once you add in developers, esafety staff, systems administrators... Apart from legal restrictions in some countries, most parents would be uncomfortable with the idea that their child is being "harvested", and the value of ads will be difficult to "prove" to the advertiser (and parents probably don't want their child targeted with more ads either!). So charging in some way is basically inevitable.

An aside, but charges for sites are likely to become more common generally, as people become more concerned about being the product rather than the customer. It's just that there are less opportunities for indirect revenue with younger children so the issue has become apparent earlier.

3 Reply Share:
Fact 6 months ago
expert answer
Brett Laniosh expert
Brett Laniosh ICT and Online Safety Consultant Catshill, GB
Education expert

There is lots of excellent content on the BBC education site. In terms of creativity I can recommend j2e.com and also scratch. The best site for online safety with age specific games and resources is CEOPs think you know www.thinkuknow.co.uk

1 Reply ( 1 ) Share:
Experience 5 months ago
Maria Lavinica
Maria Lavinica I am 29 and have 8 adopted kids. Berea, US

Hi I am Maria and I have 7 adopted kids and 1 birth child. My older children are always on their laptops on websites that need something to be installed and they install it, since its THEIR laptop, but when they do, it turns out to be the worst website ever!!! So, one day, my 8-year-old daughter Lexi was looking at kids social networks on her 10-year-old sister's laptop, and she came upon a website called Yoursphere. Now, some of you may already know about Yoursphere, and that's fine. But for those of you that don't, yoursphere is a wonderful, safe website for tweens and teens. you can join different groups like music and pics and stuff like that. For example, Lexi and 11-year old Ellie both joined the music group, and yoursphere allows you to post youtube videos and songs and blogs and also create your own group called a sphere, which is obviously why it is called Yoursphere!!! Anyways, there is only one problem with Yoursphere. It acts like a ton of words are bad words. For example, Ellie posted a video of Samantha Potter singing Team by Lorde. When she posted it, she said''Hi guys this is my fave youtube singer Samantha Potter singing Team by Lorde'', and this is how it showed up''Hi ⋆⋆⋆⋆ this is my ⋆⋆⋆⋆ ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆ singer ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆ Potter singing Team by ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆''. Seriously? Come on now! She is 11 years old and for everyone in that sphere to see that! It looks like she loves to cuss, which I never have taught her any bad words, or said any bad words in front of her. And I had to finally tell her what they were when she asked me what the stars meant...and right at that moment I felt like the worst parent ever! Her father used to cuss all the time...and that is why I got a divorce with him: because I hated to see my wonderful small children have to listen to him cuss all the time. I didn't think it was right. And especially since my children were all small then. Anyways, the point is, you should REALLY ask your children to try yoursphere.

1 Reply ( 1 ) Share:
Experience 5 months ago
Scott Todd
Scott Todd SEO nerd Belfast, GB

Thanks for your replies guys. Rob - I really like the Webkinz idea of a stuffed animal being synced to their user ID code. It makes their online presence a little more tangible as they have a physical object to associate the site to, maybe I'm over thinking that but I think I'll look into this for both my nieces (at the very least I'm sure they'll enjoy the toys!)

@Chris I couldn't agree more, that's what I've found so difficult myself. I will see things posted on sites that are perfect for my younger siblings or nieces (and it's incredibly easy to share it with them over facebook for example) then I have to remember that even though that piece might be really relevant one of the 'recommended articles' is about something much more adult, even if that isn't the case I often find the comments sections are pretty horrific - even on something as child focused as a pokemon story. I thank you for your really good insight into why these kind of sites aren't more prolific, that also helps me understand why the biggest of these sites are directly tied to television networks as that's the only niche likely to benefit from maintaining these sites without going bust.

I would like to see (reasonable) subscription rates come into play as you're predicting as if anything it's a great idea for a birthday or christmas present, purchasing an annual subscription to a really quality site for example. If it creates a safe place online that is free from advertising I think most parents would support that as long as the site has longevity and is routinely updated to keep kids involved. I spend £5 a month on my spotify account just to not have adverts play between songs and I don't think twice about it, so there's a healthy precedent for this IMO.

Moshimonsters.com was a great success when I introduced my nieces to it - it turns out they're already familiar with them (they own physical toys of these critters) and the website was really well received (they loved the ability to customise their moshi, I also enjoyed it somewhat myself...) I'm eager to hear any more opinions / recommendations people have about this!

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Opinion 5 months ago
Jane Gibbons
Jane Gibbons Jane Gibbons, psychologist Brighton, GB

Hi Scott, to continue on from one of Rob’s child safe website recommendations I’d like to talk more about the Club Penguin website as I've had good experiences on there. I guess this will be like a mini review of the site in case others are interested too - there’s over 20 different games available, children can challenge themselves and each other directly through the site, there’s a cool option that also let’s them adopt a pet on the site, helping them to learn responsible pet care which I thought was great. (I wonder what happened to the ‘tamagotchi’ of my childhood for teaching kids this though?)

The chat function allows my son to stay in touch with his friends on the site. I like how the chat rooms are programmed to keep children safe online by blocking inappropriate language. The site’s users are encouraged to stay safe at all times -they get rewards for taking safety quizzes and following safety procedures. As Rob mentioned above one of their main points for me that really makes this a child safe website is that parents have complete control as the site - it allows parents to set play timers and manage their child’s online membership entirely.

Hope it helps!

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Experience 4 months ago
Kevin Lewis
Kevin Lewis primary teacher Nottingham, GB

Hi Scott

My children are 4 and 7 too and I use www.topmarks.co.uk which is free, safe and it is geared towards the UK. It features super educational resources including learning games which my two love using both on our desktop computer and there's some Ipad friendly stuff too. You don't need to register or login either.

Hope this helps.

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Experience 3 months ago

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