A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Google Earth is an interactive map of the entire planet and beyond, packaged inside a program that you have to download to your computer. (It can slow down other running programs while in use.) It’s easy to dial the program's complexity up or down for older or younger kids. Google Earth reveals images of everything from personal homes to possible military information, and it may be fun (or somewhat unsettling) to find a photo of your own home and neighborhood. Google Earth has an active online community, and, as always, kids should not reveal any personal information in public forums.
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What's it about?
GOOGLE EARTH is packed solid with information. Street View provides ground-level images around towns. Layers show weather, track animals, reveal shipwrecks, and more. Let the Tour Guide show points of interest in new places, or use the historical imagery slider to see changes over time. See 3-D renderings of buildings and tree species from around the world. Use tools to draw paths and measure distance, altitude, and area. Take a guided, multimedia tour of Apollo landing sites on the Moon. Kids can even make their own tours with narration, video, and photos.
Is it any good?
A good virtual tool lets you realistically explore things you’ll probably never see in person, like atoms or your brain. With a mega-palette of features to probe land, sea, and space, Google Earth is without a doubt a fantastic virtual tool. Kids can view Earth, measure it, or create and share original content about it (one user shared a tour of regional dialects in the United States -- with sound). It's so much more than a map. The short tutorial videos are a must-see, and, once kids get the hang of how it works, the possibilities are endless. With multiple new versions released every year, you can trust that the program is fairly up-to-date with new bells and whistles always on the horizon.
Talk to your kids about ...
Explore some of the controversy that surrounds Google Earth regarding rights to privacy. How do you feel about seeing your home pictured in Google Earth? Talk about GPS tracking and read our advice about how to safely use location services.
Discuss criticism of Google Earth as a potential threat to national security. Should Google be restricted from sharing certain information? Why or why not?
Some countries have blocked citizens from downloading Google Earth. What do you think about that?
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