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Parents Guide to the Internet

Part 1



U.S. Department of Education
Office of Educational Research and Improvement
Office of Educational Technology


A Message To Parents About The Internet


How To Use This Booklet

What Is the Information Superhighway?

Benefits of Getting on the Information Superhighway

Starting the Engine

Navigating the Journey

Tips for Safe Traveling

Supporting School Use of Technology

Sites Along the Way





Education and Kids

Raising our Kids

Related Articles

Kids Belong on the Net, They Just Need a Guide

Pre-schoolers: Related Web Sites Do you want to encourage your child to be actively involved on the Internet?

A Message To Parents About The Internet

As President, one of my top priorities is to ensure that our children have the best education in the world. Vice President Gore and I believe that one of the ways to accomplish this is to give every child access to educational technology by the dawn of the new century. This will require connecting every classroom to the Internet by the year 2000, giving teachers the training they need to use technology effectively, expanding the supply of high-quality educational software, and increasing the number of modern, multimedia computers in the classroom. For the first time in our Nation's history, all of our children will have access to the same universe of knowledge and the opportunity to acquire the skills they need to succeed in the high-tech workplace of the 21st century.

It is critical that our children have your guidance as they learn to use the Internet. Although children can use the Internet to tap in to the Library of Congress or download pictures from the surface of Mars, not all of the material on the Internet is appropriate for children. As a parent, you can guide and teach your child in a way that no one else can. You can make sure that your child's experience on the Internet is safe, educational, and enjoyable.

Of course, not all of us are familiar with computers and the Internet. Although Vice President Gore coined the term "information superhighway" more than 17 years ago, I am a novice when it comes to high tech. To help you get started, I asked Secretary Riley and the U.S. Department of Education to prepare a Parents Guide to the Internet. This will give you the information you need to help guide your child's exploration of the vast resources on the Internet.

I commend you for helping to give America's children this unprecedented opportunity to learn and to grow. Working together, we can create a brighter future for them and for our nation.

                               Bill Clinton


More than ever before, a high-quality education offers Americans the best path to a rewarding career and a fulfilling quality of life. As citizens of the Information Age, we must include access to technology among the elements of an education that is based on high standards of achievement and discipline. But incorporating technology into the Nation's schools is too big a job for the schools to tackle on their own. Teachers need support and involvement from parents, grandparents, business, cultural institutions and others in order to make effective in-class use of the wonders of technology.

This Parents Guide to the Internet is intended to help parents--regardless of their level of technological know-how--make use of the on-line world as an important educational tool. The guide cuts through the overwhelming amount of consumer information to give parents an introduction to the Internet and how to navigate it. I am especially pleased that the guide suggests how parents can allow their children to tap into the wonders of the Internet while safeguarding them from its potential hazards.

This guide was produced with the sort of collaborative effort that our schools need in order to succeed. U.S. Department of Education staff worked with leaders from parent and education organizations, the private sector, nonprofit groups and others in order to give you a clear and comprehensive overview of the Internet and its vast educational potential. In the same way, schools need support from every corner of the community in order to provide our students with a high-quality education. I encourage you to find ways for families, employers and civic organizations to pitch in and improve your local schools.

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How To Use This Booklet

For many of us, computers are exciting, but puzzling. Our children know far more about computers than we do! How do we bridge the gap between what our children know and what we know to be able to assist them with their school work and help them get ready for the information age of the next century? After all, being able to use technology is rapidly becoming a requirement for being an informed citizen and a productive worker.

Whether your children are experienced computer users or just getting started, they need your involvement, your experience, and your judgment. This booklet is designed to provide you with basic information about how to use the computer to find information and communicate with others. It tells you what you need to get started on the Internet—a vast network of computers that connects people and information all over the world—and points you to some of the many interesting, helpful, and fun resources available online for parents and children.

You'll find that the vocabulary of computers is taken from sources familiar to us. Computer language is borrowed from travel: superhighway, engine, cruising, surfing, navigating; from restaurants: menu, server; and from the environment: Web, mouse, windows, site. Computer vocabulary can also be descriptive of the movement or sound made to do something on the computer: to "click" or "drag" the mouse, for example. Other words come from words used for medieval manuscripts: icon, scroll, cursor. In the following sections, you'll find several key computer terms in italics. They are defined in the glossary at the end of this booklet.

You can see there is a great deal of variety in the thinking behind computers. Since the computer world is constantly growing and changing, there is some variety among different systems and software, as well. As you begin using the computer, you may notice some differences between instructions given in this booklet and the system you use. Feel free to experiment and explore.

You might want to use this booklet as a tutorial to help you learn. You can use the sites suggested in various sections to try out the computer. Remember, if you have questions, your children may know the answers. Don't hesitate to ask them. That's how we encourage our children to learn. You will find that your children, local librarians, friends, teachers, and others familiar with computers will be able to help.

Have a pleasant and safe journey down the information superhighway!

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What Is the Information Superhighway?

When we talk about getting online, we mean being connected to the Internet--a giant network of computers that connects people and information all over the world. The Internet has a lot in common with other forms of communication:

  • Like the U.S. Postal Service, the Internet allows anyone who knows your Internet address to send you a letter. (It's called electronic mail, or e-mail for short).

  • Like the telephone, the Internet allows you to "chat" with other people by participating in online discussion groups.

  • Like the library, the Internet contains information on almost any topic you can imagine in many formats, including books, articles, videos, and music recordings.

  • Like the newspaper, the Internet can give you new information every day, including world news, business, sports, travel, entertainment, and ads.

In addition to words, one part of the Internet--the World Wide Web (often shortened to WWW or the Web)--is especially interesting to people because it includes pictures and sounds.

A Short History Lesson

The Internet began in the 1960s as a U.S. Department of Defense communication network. Soon after, university researchers and professors began to use it to communicate with others in their fields. Internet use really took off in the early 1990s with the arrival of the Web, which made it easier to find and view information online. Today, millions of people throughout the world are connected to the Internet. No one--no country, organization, or company--is in charge of the Internet; it's growing and being changed by its users every day.

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Continue in Part 2

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