Family fun and learning on the Net

Jane Mitra, Parents Information Network, wrote this article in 1997.

Using the Internet can be very liberating for parents with small children: they are no longer confined to services within easy travelling distance; they can find information, entertainment, training and advice; they can make networks of contacts across the world cheaply and easily; and they can set up wonderful learning experiences for their children on some of the many excellent educational Web sites now available.

Parents and older children can keep up-to-date with their own particular interests through the many sport and hobby Web sites; discuss issues with other interested people; or read online newspapers together. Many families find that using the Net draws them together to share the good things they find, instead of being a solitary activity, and there is great potential for fun too.

A new type of software called agentware allows each member of the family to train an agent to go out across the Internet and find the kind of sites they are particularly interested in. My family, for example, is interested in the origins of mankind, specifically cro-magnon man. We have trained an agent to find information on this very specific topic. That agent has saved us hours of searching and it is really exciting when it delivers new information to us.

One way in which parents can learn to use the Net is to go back to school. Northgate Primary School has trained some parent helpers to use the Internet. In return, they have agreed to work on the Net with small groups of children for a couple of hours, once a week, under the direction of the class teacher. They mainly use the school's own fully indexed list of bookmarks to go to sites relevant to the children's curriculum work. The list is also available to them at home from the school's Web site which runs on the Herts County Council server. This is a good example of how training and support from the local school can be of practical use to parents in their own family.

Good family URLs

An American site with guidance and expert advice on family issues, a good range of electronic postcards to send, and links to other useful sites.

A huge American listing of sites for parents and children.

The official BBC site includes programme information and support materials plus goodies like the Blue Peter pages at

Children's Literature Web Guide
A wonderful Canadian site, compiled by a librarian, which features information about books for children and young adults, online books, parents' resources and links to many other useful family sites.

Recreational Software Advisory Council

This home page includes useful information for parents about using the organisation's rating system to filter out unwanted sites from family viewing.

Home | Communities | Networks | Partnerships | Toolkit | | Join in