A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that kids need to download the game to their computer, which takes about 15 minutes on a PC or Mac with a DSL connection. Playing the game teaches them some basic ways to stay safe online by identifying spam emails, ads they shouldn't click on, and chat comments they probably shouldn't respond to.
What's it about?
After downloading the CARNEGIE CYBER ACADEMY game, kids can talk to characters and complete brief challenges to learn about cyber safety and earn gold badges. Each activity comes with a brief lesson about spam email, questionable pop-up ads, and other online safety topics. Kids can always review the information again if they need to and can repeat a game if they don't score high enough for a badge. The site is easy to navigate, and there's plenty to do. Kudos to the Cyber Academy for offering valuable information in a fun, engaging format.
Is it any good?
Created by the Information Networking Institute (INI) at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, the CARNEGIE CYBER ACADEMY teaches kids about email and Internet safety by challenging them to complete a series of tasks. After downloading the game to their desktop, kids zip around different areas of the academy, asking characters questions and helping them find missing items. The game activities are preceded by a brief lesson. To practice identifying spam, kids choose which emails should be trashed based on their subject line; cadets also learn to keep chat rooms safe by tossing strangers who ask for personal information. The ratio of information and activities is just right -- kids will have fun learning valuable online safety tips, and because the site includes detailed instructions for each challenge, they should be able to find their way around the academy fairly easily.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how kids can stay safe on the Internet. The site offers tips on recognizing spam and keeping your personal information private. Review the major concepts discussed and ask kids: What kind of information should you never post in a profile or share with someone when chatting online?
Users can talk with characters in the game, but they can't type responses; instead, you choose from a few pre-written answers to tell the characters how you feel. Why would that be safer than being able to say whatever you want? What kind of information could that type of system prevent you from sharing?
How much time should you spend playing in a virtual world like the Cyber Academy -- instead of the real world? Talk about what your family feels is an appropriate amount of time to spend online every day, and read our article on setting time limits that stick.
For kids who love games that teach
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