Children's Web sites come in all shapes and sizes. Two of the largest, Nick.com and Yahooligans.com, offer distinctly different online services. Nick.com is a fun-first site loaded with Nickelodeon-generated content. Yahooligans provides online activities but serves mainly as a comprehensive directory of age-appropriate Web sites.
Nick.com at http://www.nick.com is both an online showcase for all things Nickelodeon and an ambitious entertainment site. Building on the tremendous popularity of Nickelodeon TV and its animated characters, Nick.com offers children a place to move beyond passive television viewing to online interaction with their TV favorites.
The site targets kids ages 6 to 14, which is a broad range. But there is more than enough to keep kids coming back for more. In addition to a cheery home page--money is obviously no object in the design department--Nick.com has six main sections.
The All Nick section lists everything there is to know about Nickelodeon TV shows, upcoming special events and movies. The Games section lets kids choose from about 170 online games featuring--you guessed it--all their favorite Nick characters. CatDog, Go for Gopher, Animorphs Slider, SpongeBob Jelly Fishing and the Wave Rave multiplayer game are just a sampling. Kids can also try their hand at Le Food Frenzy, "the world's messiest multiplayer game," and tie in to the "Rugrats in Paris" movie opening later this month.
Three radio stations in the Music section offer pop tunes, Nick tunes, barnyard classics plus music video clips, and the Blab area schedules online celebrity chats. In Web Lab, new animations from Nick channels worldwide--which are not broadcast in this country--can be viewed.
Also, users can direct their own animations and send Nick-flavored postcards to friends. Things get interesting for older kids in the Your World section, featuring "weird" news, sports and horoscopes. Users also can take advantage of recent partnerships that allow for a series of "kid-first" tools and services. These include kid-friendly weather forecasts from AccuWeather.com, encyclopedia services from Britannica.com and calendar tools from ECal.com.
Yahooligans at http://www.yahooligans.com, which is part of Yahoo Inc., is a terrific site for any child or parent who wants to take the angst out of searching for age-appropriate online content--whether it's educational or entertainment. Targeting kids ages 6 to 12, most of Yahooligans serves as a massive directory of already researched and reviewed Web sites in such categories as Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Computers & Games, School Bell, Science & Nature, Sports & Recreation and more.
For example, clicking on School Bell takes users to a list of about 300 links under Math alone. Further exploration yields sites classified by category, such as Geometry and Real World Math.
Yahooligans offers a simple home page for easy navigation. In addition to the main directory categories, content is updated regularly with current events, news, sports, jokes and games.
The news, sports and jokes sections are written for ages 12 and younger. But there is also a parents' guide that provides insightful advice on such topics as Internet safety and a teachers' guide offering sample lesson plans, teaching resources and more.
There are two ways to access online games via Yahooligans. One is to play the basic offerings including Checkers, Go Fish and Chinese Checkers. The other is to click on the games tab to find links to any number of sites offering age-appropriate game play. There is also a new instant-messaging communications tool designed especially for kids to take part in numerous live chats. Previous chat guests have included President Clinton, "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling and Bill Nye, the Science Guy.
Karen Jones is a freelance writer specializing in children's interactive media.
Kids' Web Sites