Easy Link Internet Launch Pad addresses these concerns by providing a safe internet experience that locks kids into at age-appropriate sites and won't let them click into the files that are on that computer. Once online and safe, kids can't leave until you let them out. Here's how it works.
For $30, parents get a device that plugs into a Windows-based computer via a USB cord. This 10-inch-by-6-inch plastic launch pad comes with three plastic Smart Keys: one of Elmo from Sesame Street, one of Zak & Wheezie from Dragon Tales, and one that looks like a Fisher-Price toy dog. Parents place one of the three keys into the device's centered green plug. The key lights up, and the computer automatically launches an associated website. The device sits in its own mouse pad, and kids use its arrow keys and the computer's mouse to navigate within the games found on the websites. Parents can remove their keyboard and keep it safe from sticky fingers.
With the Elmo key, kids are taken to the games section of the SesameWorkshop website (www.sesameworkshop.org). From there kids can explore over 50 games. They can sort the games by character (Big Bird, Elmo, Telly, Oscar etc) or educational topic (ABCs, 123s, shapes, dot-to-dots, sorting, or special topics). Kids can also explore other activities including stories, art, music, mail, and Elmo's World. A typical game found on the site is Elmo's Weather Game where Elmo asks the child to select a type of weather and then dress him for that weather. It can get quite silly when children make it snow and then dress Elmo in a swimsuit.
With the Zak & Wheezie key, kids are taken to the Dragons' Tales section of the PBSKids.org. There they can play 16 games with Cassie, Quetzal, Ord, and the other characters of the television show. Parents will find an excellent sentence creation game where the sentences are read in both Spanish and English.
The Fisher-Price dog leads to a specially-created Fisher-Price Games & Activities website. Here kids find five options for play: puzzles and mazes, online coloring, arcade, learning, and print and color. While these activities are based on toy lines and sometimes promote the toys on which they are based, they do offer good opportunities for first time computer activities. For example, under the online coloring activities, the Pixter dot-to-dot activity is perfect for teaching young children how to use the mouse. Kids are shown one blinking dot. When they click on it, another dot shows up. Click on the second dot and a line magically appears between the first two as a third dot appears. When children have negotiated their way to all the dots, a colorful object appears and animates.
Kids may need some help inserting the character keys. Additional smart keys are available in two-character packs for $6.99. Thomas the Train comes packaged with Bob the Builder. You can also buy Clifford and Arthur, and the Wiggles and Barney. All lead games on corresponding websites.
When children are finished playing with the Easy Link Internet Launch Pad, the software presents a password screen for parents. After parents type in their password, the system unlocks and returns the computer to normal. Another nice feature is that the program comes with parental controls which allow parents to set a timer for how long kids can play, and determine whether printing is allowed.
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