The answer dawned on me when I took my daughter to nursery last week. Staff had just installed a dedicated "Kids Browser" to their child-friendly computer and were testing the effectiveness (and fun-value) with the kids. I thought this was just amazing: the browser prevents unsavoury sites from being accessed at all, instead offering a colourful cheerful approach which encourages safe, responsible learning.
Now this particular software is reserved for nurseries and educational establishments (therefore it's quite costly), but I was intrigued and after a little research discovered several wonderful free browsers for kids which I would recommend to other parents too.
These browsers are probably better suited to young children (my 9 and 12 year olds think these are way too "babyish"!), but offer a safe environment for your little ones' first encounters with the internet.
In no particular order, here are my top 5 (free) Internet browsers for kids:
1. KidozThis bright and colourful browser offers a completely safe environment for children and prevents access to any unapproved content.
Younger children can simply "point and click" to access their favourite content, while the "Parental Control" section enables parents to monitor and control the content available to their children.
Content is restricted only to approved sites (these are moderated by humans and updated daily) or by manually adding your seal of approval in the Parental Control area.
Kido'z operates using Adobe Air and ensures browsing is both fast and reliable. You may need a fairly recent computer to use this browser effectively (Pentium 4 and above is recommended), though this is an otherwise beautifully designed browser which you and the children will enjoy equally.
Visit the KIDOZ site for more information and to download
2. KidzuiThis browser offers more features and seems appropriate for a slightly older audience. Using a tabbed menu at the top of the screen, children can quickly navigate between the Web, Videos and Photos and have a vast range of visual prompts to be clicked which help them find the content they want to view.
One huge advantage of this platform is the parental controls. You can change settings for Kidzui to prevent the browser being closed without entering the parental password which helps protect your desktop and other files being accessed or accidentally deleted.
Kids can design their personal Zui avatar; make "parent approved" friends online and chat in a safe environment.
There is also a premium version of Kidzui which offers such features as unlocking more clothes for avatars, a homework helper and favourites folder.
Learn more and download Kidzui
3. KidRocketKidRocket is a simple hybrid browser and activity centre for the kids. Featuring a desktop lock (to prevent access to your important files) and optional email service (where you control whom emails are sent from and to your kids), it's quite useful and makes browsing fun.
Rather than being "installed" like a regular program, KidRocket is a standalone program which is launched through a desktop icon to prevent conflict with your regular (grown-up) web browser.
Access to websites is limited only to those which have been approved by KidRocket, such as CBeebies, Crayola and Disney. Simple "art" and "maths" programs add offline interest for curious kids, while you can control how the program functions using the "admin" section.
Learn more about KidRocket and download
4. PiklukThis browser is completely controlled by the parent dashboard where you choose which sites your child is allowed to access, and with whom they can correspond by email.
No URLs are displayed, and access is restricted to any sites which you have not deemed as "safe". Your desktop is also safe from prying eyes and accidental deletion as Pikluk cannot be closed without parental consent.
Learn more and download Pikluk
Navigation is made easy using descriptive buttons at the top of the browser, with individual sites linked in the sidebar. School-age children can easily access sites to help with homework, while a dedicated "Toddlers" section offers games and education suitable for pre-school ages.
Kids can chat safely using a messaging service which parents control to ensure they are totally aware of who their kids talk to online, while "favorites" can be added in just a couple of clicks (a feature sadly missing in other free kids browsers I've seen).
Learn more and download Buddy Browser
What do you think?Have you encountered any other free kids browsers which you'd like to recommend? Which of these browsers do you prefer to install for your own children?
Please share your thoughts and opinions by leaving a comment below.
Image credit: Computers and kids by Tanya Ryno (top right).