The past few weeks I have been testing a new Firefox extension called Glubble.
Disclaimer: I know the people behind the Glubble team and I am a fan of their work.
Just a quick line on what Glubble is. Glubble is an extension that turns your Firefox browser into a family browser. It allows you to create accounts for all family members, including children that can’t read yet. Children can use Glubble to surf specific parts of the web, called Glubbles, that parents, friends or family have approved. It provides the children a safe way to explore the web without the dangers that lie around. It comes with easy to use parental control mechanisms and has a standard set of approved Glubbles so that the children can start immediately. If a child wants to see a web site that is not part of their approved glubbles yet, it can ask a parent for permission to see the site.
I’m not going to do a product review on this, I recommend you try it yourself. It is dead simple to install and works within a few minutes. You can read more or download the preview version right here. What interest me is how do children surf the web and how does Glubble help me out there.
I have four children, the eldest daughter 11 years old, and then 3 boys in the age of 10, 8, and 6. I also happen to have four computers, 1 of which is actually for the children, but most of them are taken by the children during the hours we allow them to use the computer. The youngest one can’t read yet and surfs the web mostly by memory. He remembers specific game sites and types their addresses in to navigate there. Once on a site, he can click his way through all the different games. The other ones can read and do a bit more complicated things on the web. As a parent I try to give my children as much responsibility as possible when they surf the web. I do provide them with a set of rules and my wife and I watch over them every once in a while. We tell them never to register anywhere without asking us first. Don’t click on ads, do not accept people in your MSN account that you don’t know in the physical world and be careful with who you interact.
This works most of the time, as children tend to favor just a few sites. My boys, in most cases, go to a specific music site to turn on a few video clips for background noise. Then they surf to http://www.runescape.com to play a game there. They play that game most often, alone, or with friends from school. My youngest son can also surf to the site to turn on music, and then he usually goes to a site where he can play all sorts of games for his own age. My daughter plays music, uses MSN, and plays a horsetycoon game at the same time.
No problem here. The real issues start mostly when they either hear something at school from other kids (“have you seen this site, there are naked girls there”) or when they start using Google. My daughter once did a school project on pussycats, and you already know what she saw first when she used Google to find information on pussycats.
This is where Glubble helps me out. It protects children by allowing them to navigate through safe area’s, called Glubbles. But it also provides the children a simple tool to ask me for permission to see a new site. As soon as I start my browser, I see the children’s requests and I can evaluate them immediately. So Glubble provides the children safety, but leaves the responsibility at the parents (or helpers they might assign). What makes it fun is that Glubble also contains a family center, a place where all family activities are registered and we can interact together. At the heart of the family center is the family wall, where all family members can post messages. My children have found that possibility rather quickly and have posted a number of fun messages there. I have seen a lot of bargaining (can I please, please have access to that site), and funny remarks. It is fun to see what your children are doing, and it helps me to interact with them about their on-line experiences.
It is also interesting to see them think about safety on the Internet and the position Glubble takes in there. They call Glubble their Internet, and the outside world the “real” Internet. They have gotten used to it quickly and use the tool as their own. For us it is also comforting to know that our children are protected and fun, because we have more interaction on-line with them.
Definitely something to try. Congratulations to Ian Hayward and his Glubble team. Browsing can be a family experience.