A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Merriam-Webster is a useful site that includes a complete dictionary and fairly informative encyclopedia. All definitions are purely educational and straightforward. The "English-Spanish" section is helpful for translating words and understanding verb conjugation, and the "Medical" section translates medical jargon into layman's terms. Also, users will enjoy the age-appropriate, word-focused games that improve both vocabulary and memory. Ads (both sponsored and banner) do appear on every page, and links of the sponsored advertisers lure people off the site -- occasionally to iffy material (the "marijuana" entry provided a site on how to grow pot, for example). There's also a store to buy hard copies of Merriam-Webster products.
What's it about?
Does your kid shy away from flipping through the 1,000+ pages of your old print dictionary to find a word's meaning? Simply point him to the search field on M-W.COM and he'll be able to get the definition in seconds. There's also the thesaurus, the Spanish/English dictionary, and the medical dictionary to search on. You'll get the word's uses, variations, and an audio clip of how words are pronounced -- one cool thing on the site that the print version just can't offer.
Is it any good?
Merriam-Webster is a wonderful and reliable source for information. The Spelling Bee Hive -- a section about the National Spelling Bee -- the age-appropriate games, the vocabulary quizzes, and the Word of the Day will be of particular interest to kids. These functions add to the charm of learning online.
Unfortunately, the multitude of ads that appear on every page can cause the site to run slowly, and ubiquitous links easily lead users off the site where privacy and safety are not guaranteed. Print versions are available for purchase and are an option for avoiding unwanted online interaction. Membership for the online unabridged version is $29.95 a year; collegiate is $14.95.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about using a trusted source to get information online. Why is it often better to go to a site like Merriam-Webster than to Google to find the best age-appropriate, reliable information?
Families can also discuss safe sites to browse. How can you tell which sites you can trust? How do you stay safe online?
For kids who love learning new words
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