and the Internet: How to Improve Your New Media Parenting Skills
(ARA) - Do you have a member of the "Clickerati" at your house?
They are otherwise known as today's tech-savvy generation of children
who are light years ahead of their parents when it comes to new
media. They were using computers almost before they could talk,
and can find virtually anything -- from music to movies to games
-- on the Internet.
But they're still kids. And just as adults watch out for their
children when it comes to what they eat, or the books and toys
they play with, parents should also be aware of what their kids
are doing online. Twenty-first century parents need to "catch
up"; they should take the time to find out what is available on
the Web and guide their children accordingly.
An excellent resource designed for kids and intended to help families
explore the Internet together is MaMaMedia.com. One of the only
independent sites available for young people, this kids-oriented
guide to the Net offers a variety of engaging activities to help
users gain technological fluency and expand their minds through
playful learning. Children can design and animate characters,
make their own digital cards, invent games and share ideas --
all within a colorful, entertaining format.
Aimed at kids 12 and under, the site includes a number of innovative,
interactive educational opportunities. A "Romp" channel allows
kids to explore the Web safely by providing a visual directory
organized into seven categories, each with hundreds of sites carefully
selected by the MaMaMedia editorial team. Users can also visit
"Zap" where they can make digital creatures and screens, or "Surprise"
where they can create stories and cartoons. The site also has
companion areas that provide information and guidance for parents
prides itself on creating innovative, meaningful ways to marry
the power of the computer with the potential of the child," says
Idit Harel, Ph.D., the founder and CEO of MaMaMedia. "The educational
value of a Web site comes from stimulating the imagination, not
just manipulating information," she explains.
According to Harel, there is a fundamental set of new-media-literacy
skills that all children should be expanding. "Activities on the
site are meant to help kids develop the three X's: eXploration,
eXpression, and eXchange of ideas and creations with digital media
and technology tools," says Harel. She considers these skills
to be as important as the three R's to the development of a successful
citizen in the 21st century.
internet learning tools are just like a paintbrush or building
blocks," says Harel. "Web experiences for kids should be about
learning by doing within a multidimensional creative process,
rather than being confined by linear stories or questions and
The site also provides a way for kids to respond to world events.
Within 48 hours of the Sept. 11 tragedy, the MaMaMedia Peace Project
was launched. The "HQ for Peace" channel features peace-themed
activities such as puzzles, "Mail Bytes" where kids can respond
to questions, resources for learning more about the world, and
options for sending digital peace greetings to friends and family.
Millions of children have used the channel since its inception.
peace site provides a safe and expressive space for children to
think about and share their feelings, display their digital creations,
and exchange ideas about peace, fear and hope," says Harel.
Harel established MaMaMedia in 1995 after years of study at the
MIT media lab. The quality content, based on new learning skills,
attracts more than 20,000 children a day, almost 5 million member/users
in total since it was launched. The site has won a number of awards,
including the Computerworld Smithsonian Award and the Global Information