A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that iNaturalist is an online community that lets users age 13 and older share pictures and locations of the living things they see around them. Like any online network, teens should be cautious with sharing. When signing up for iNaturalist, they automatically get a profile that displays their username, but they can also add their name, a picture, and a short bio if they choose. Members can send each other private messages, and uploaded photos include location information.
What's it about?
Teens register using an existing email, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Google, or Yahoo account. They can follow other users or search by species or location. A team of volunteer experts monitors the site, confirming identification of organisms. The Places portion of the website shows a list and images of living things in a particular location. iNaturalist also promotes projects like Global Reptile BioBlitz, where posts about organisms are used in actual research on biodiversity.
Is it any good?
INATURALIST is a fun way for teens who love nature to document the different species of our world. Teens can take pictures and use the site's resources to identify and publish their sightings online. It's a great example of how researchers and citizen scientists from all over the globe can share data and build knowledge together.
Though kids may have fun sharing the animals they see, iNaturalist limits users to identifying organisms and looking at where living things are on maps. The site would be better for learning if there were activities that let teens use that data to expand their knowledge of biodiversity and why it's important. In addition, the open sharing and commenting along with the ability to send private messages creates privacy and safety concerns for younger users. Though the site is well monitored and most users seem genuinely there for science, teens should be cautious when sharing and interacting with strangers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the living things that live in their neighborhoods. Why do scientists bother to count and catalog all the organisms in an area?
Families can also use the iNaturalist Location List the next time they are planning a trip. What kinds of organisms can we expect to see when we go there? Where can we look to find them?
For families who want to learn more about using online communities like iNaturalist safely, check out our Social Networking Tips.
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