A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Vocabulary.com is a place where kids can go to learn new words and play word games. Kids over 13 can do some vocab-building social networking with friends. Kids under 13 are asked to submit a parent's email address during registration. You'll receive your child's password, and you'll have to activate their registration. Even with permission to use the site, kids 12 and under get limited access: Their profiles aren't public, and they can't post comments. As with any dictionary-based site, kids can get silly and look up swear words and anatomy, but the definitions are standard and harmless. However, they could potentially click on links that take them to external sites that could expose them to more content with these definitions.
What's it about?
VOCABULARY.COM is much more than a standard dictionary website. Sure, word definitions can be looked up, but the app also offers a significant number of word games for users to test their comprehension. As you get started, a word appears on the screen. From four definitions, choose the one you think is correct. The site then tailors future questions based on strengths and weaknesses. Many terms are commonly used in academic and business environments, but the site also works to identify terms you may not be familiar with. If kids answer a question incorrectly, Vocabulary.com schedules extra exercises to help them learn it. Users get points for each correct answer and earn badges as they reach different goals; charts track their progress on the site.
Is it any good?
This word-focused website provides a uniquely customized experience centered on words and word definitions. According to the site, which landed a spot on Time magazine's 2012 list of best websites, the more you play, the more the site can adapt its questions (currently, the site has more than 100,000). It's well designed, easy to figure out, and fun. The 10-word quizzes are just long enough to remain interesting, and users earn points and badges for completing tasks, which encourages them to continue. Your progress -- learning individual words or earning activity points -- is carefully documented in charts, and the system goes above and beyond to ensure words are committed to memory. If you miss a word, it'll appear again; ones you've mastered also are occasionally cycled back into the mix. Vocabulary.com's SAT word lists and social-networking component make it a particularly good fit for high school-age students. Still, theoretically, the site challenges could work for nearly any age level.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the new terms your kid learns on the site. Are there other school subjects your child would be interested in researching online? (Check out our School Performance Tips to see how technology can help your kids succeed academically.)
Teens can post comments on other users' lists. How can you write a helpful, constructive post? Are there any things you should never say?
Kids under age 13 get limited access to some of the site features such as commenting. Why would that be safer than having full rein? Discuss Internet privacy and safety and provide examples of issues that might arise when other users can see your real name or contact you through a website.
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