Safe Surfing Guide
When people talk about getting online, it means being connected to the Internet. The Internet, sometimes called the Net, is a huge group of interconnected computer networks that spans the globe. It has many features, but is generally used as a way to communicate, use information tools and find endless amounts of information from an unlimited number of sources.
The Internet makes possible a number of online functions, for example:
- It allows anyone who knows your Internet address to send you a letter or electronic mail, or e-mail (which is a way of sending messages electronically from one computer user to another).
- You can use chat rooms, which are places online where you can communicate with others instantaneously using your keyboard, and discussion groups, places where you can read and post information about particular topics.
- It allows you to access information on almost any topic that you can imagine and in any format, including books, articles, videos, and music recordings.
- Find educational resources, including up-to-the minute news, copies of important documents and photos, and collections of research information on topics ranging from weather conditions to population statistics.
- Get help with homework through online encyclopedias and other reference materials and access to experts.
- Increase reading skills by providing access to interesting materials and suggestions for additional reading.
- Improve technology and information skills necessary to find and use information, solve problems, communicate with others, and meet a growing demand for these skills in the workplace.
- Connect with places around the world to exchange mail with electronic pen pals and learn about other cultures and traditions.
- Locate parenting information and swap ideas with other families.
- Learn and have fun together by sharing interesting and enjoyable experiences.
World Wide Web
What has helped the Internet become more popular is the development of the World Wide Web. The World Wide Web (WWW or the Web) is a network of sites on the Internet which contain words, sounds, and pictures. It is its visual quality that distinguishes the Web from the rest of the Internet. Here, commercial companies, non-profit organizations, the government and individuals supply lots of information on any subject imaginable. In fact, many organizations and commercial outlets are creating "content" or information aimed directly at children of all ages because children are spending more and more time exploring the Web.
A necessary tool for exploring the Web is a browser, which is a program that allows you to access all the information available on the Web. Examples of popular browsers are Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer. Browsers make it very easy to move from one Web site to another.
Surfing the Net
When you go on the Internet, rather than have a specific destination in mind, you may wish to browse through the Web, the way you would browse through a library or a catalogue, looking for topics or things that interest you. This browsing is often called surfing the Net. There is unlimited information on the Internet, but with so much available, it can be almost impossible to find what you are looking for. There are several ways to navigate the Web. You can use a browser to visit Web sites using their web address or by using search engines that help you find what you are looking for.
Search engines exist to help you find the relevant information you require. With a search engine you can sort through vast amounts of online information to pinpoint the material you want. Search engines work by matching words you enter into the computer with the same words found in various information sites on the Internet.
Using Web addresses. To get to a special destination, you'll type in an Internet address in the space provided on the Web browser. Web addresses, which you will sometimes see called Uniform Resource Locators (URL's), begin with http://, which stands for hypertext transfer protocol. After you type in the Web address, it may take a while for the site's home page to appear on the screen, especially if it includes many pictures. Once it does, you'll probably see several choices you can click your mouse on to take you further into the site. (If you type in an address incorrectly, or too many people are trying to use a site at once, you'll get an error message on your computer screen. Just try again later).
Following links. Many sites include hypertext links to other sites with related content. When you click on one of these highlighted areas, your computer will connect to another Web site without your having to know or type its address.
Some Benefits of Getting on the Information Superhighway
A computer that is connected to the Internet allows you to turn your home, community center, local library, or school into a place of unlimited information and communication. The Internet can help your family:
What the Information Superhighway Can Do for Children
It can help children learn skills using information resources and technology, such as problem-solving, fact-gathering, analysis, and writing on computers - skills that employers will seek from future workers (today's young people). They can also help young people learn computer programming and other marketable skills.
It can open up new worlds of rich learning experiences to children through schools, libraries, and home. For example, children can work on a school project with other children in countries thousands of miles away, or gather information from renowned scientists, authors, or business leaders. And "electronic pen pals", either relatives or new online friends from opposite ends of the planet, can e-mail each other almost instantly. Children in poor or rural school districts can use online services to visit museums, cities, and wildlife preserves they would not otherwise get to see. Children with disabilities can participate more fully in learning, in art programs, and in socializing.
What the Information Superhighway Can't Do
Computers and online time alone cannot make your child a brilliant student. Children learn best when they receive individualized attention and encouragement from teachers and parents. Every kind of technology, from the blackboard to slide presentations, to CD-ROMs - is simply a tool whose effectiveness depends on whether it is used well.
Computers alone won't make your child a well-rounded, successful adult. Children still need the balance that comes from outdoor activities, friends and family, solid academic skills and healthy relationships with strong adult role models.
What the Information Superhighway Might Do
It can be a way for you to spend more time with your child on educational and recreational activities. Research shows that family involvement in a child's education is one of the most important ingredients for success. Spending time online with your child can be a way to connect with what he or she is learning in school and to stay involved. Computers can also help you expose your child to valuable information and experiences.
Online technologies can also be a way for you to stay in touch with your child's teachers, school schedules, and homework assignments. Increasingly, schools are offering parents access to important school information via e-mail and online school discussion groups. This can be especially helpful for parents whose work schedules make it hard for them to meet with teachers or be at school during the school day.
Why Should You Care About Computers and the Information Superhighway?
First, because information technology literacy skills will increasingly be expected of young people. Young people fluent in information resources will likely have advantages in the workplace. Secondly, this new resource may hold special educational and other opportunities for your child, as the online world can bring diverse experiences to young people. And, finally, more and more children are taking the lead to get online and need strong parental guidance to use this new medium as a rich opportunity for learning.