Waco Gem and Mineral Club, Waco, Tx

15.1 Exploring the Web Safely and Securely


15.1: *Exploring the Web Safely and Securely*

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Gather your kids around a computer with an Internet connection to explore the web via search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN, or Ask.com. Start by showing kids how to access a search engine. Then show them procedures for conducting a basic search, as well as how to conduct a somewhat more refined search to narrow down the number of resulting web sites that will pop up. Finally, brainstorm with your kids to come up with rock-related topics of interest to them for exploration, like quartz crystals or dinosaurs or gem cutting. Type in the topic to see what you can find.

A good setting for an exercise like this is your local public library, providing of course you don‘t suddenly surprise the staff there with a flood of 20 noisy kids! In fact, your local librarians most likely would be thrilled to help in organizing and leading such a session. Stop in and talk with them and see what might be arranged. In my day job at a publishing company, I interact a lot with librarians. They‘re extremely bright and knowledgeable people engaged in a service profession. Thus, as a general rule they love to help people and are trained to help you find the information you need that‘s useful and reliable.

Safety and Security.

Librarians also would be able to provide your juniors with warnings about the dangers of the online environment. While I don‘t want to overstate such dangers, 'on-line predators' do exist, as well as an unfortunate overabundance of web sites of a less than savory nature that you want kids to avoid, not to mention the potential for getting 'tagged' by spammers or by warped individuals who get a cheap thrill sending around digital worms and viruses if you open the wrong sort of document. One of the benefits of conducting a workshop like this in your public library—in addition to the safe environment it provides—is that their computers generally do include firewalls and screens that prevent access to less desirable sites.

Here are some safety tips to pass along to kids when plugging into the online environment:

Seek parents‘ permission before exploring web sites.

Refrain from giving out personal information should a particular site ask for names, addresses, phone numbers, etc.

Avoid sites that require you to log in or to register, and seek advice from parents before taking any action like that on the web.

Open attachments or downloads only from trustworthy sources.

Your local librarians will likely have additional safety tips to offer, so visit your local librarians, utilize their expertise, take advantage of computers set up and meant for public access, and arrange a web workshop for your club‘s kids!