- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 22, 2002

The World Wide Web has become an incredible portal to the planet's news, and more media organizations are reaching a cyber-audience with the click of a mouse. Considering how accustomed children have become to living in a plugged-in world, why leave them out of the information gateway?

Just one of the many sites recognizing the need to inform the latest generation was developed by a group of parents in 1999 as a place for young surfers to read about the top stories of the week, contribute to its pages and enjoy numerous educational activities.


Site address: www.kidsnewsroom.org


Founded by Marc Matthews, Julie Matthews and Amy Morris, the nonprofit site has been funded completely by the Matthews family of Potomac Falls, Va.

Creator quotable:

"We created this site because we wanted our children to grow up being educated, interested and involved in what is going on in the world around them. When our youngest child started to read, we quickly discovered the lack of news articles geared toward kids; hence, we created the Kids-newsroom Web site," says Mr. Matthews, president of Kidsnewsroom.org.

"Kidsnewsroom quickly evolved into a site which strives to publish a kid-friendly newspaper for young readers, introducing them to current events and the world around them, all on a safe, interactive, educational Web site."

Word from the Webwise:

Kids-newsroom.org gives a smattering of news-related items and fun resources every week, combined with colorful graphics and page designs. Of the bubble-shaped icons offered on the very blue front page Weekly News, Info Central, Games & More, and Kids and Schools on the Web first-time visitors will want to jump to Weekly News to find an example of what the editors consider relevant headlines for children.

This section presents the categories U.S. Government, Music & Entertainment, This Week in History, Sports Zone, Around the World and Picture of the Week, with a total of 11 easy-to-read articles available for visitors in middle school and above.

The day I visited the site, highlights included reports on airlines no longer asking those luggage-location questions when you check in for a flight, the discovery of a sunken Japanese submarine in Pearl Harbor and the first time the American flag was flown in battle, on Sept. 3, 1777. Each item is brief and to the point but has no reporter byline or attributable source as credit. An archive of articles can be found under Info Central going back to the beginning of the site.

After brushing up on current events, I enjoyed diving into 18 challenges found under Games & More, which ranged from a simple round of Battleship to an activity in which visitors create sentences with word magnets on a virtual blackboard to the hangmanesque game Guess the Prez to sharpen U.S. history skills.

A hidden gold mine of knowledge can be found under Info Central. Visitors will find modules of content developed into minisites that explore topics such as emotions, animals, careers and children's health.

Finally, Kids and Schools on the Web not only provides articles from children around the United States, but also offers an excellent tutorial on building a Web site, filled with easy-to-understand details.

Ease of use:

The site needs no plug-ins (except for the Virtual Journey into the Universe module, which requires Shockwave and Java) and should work fine with any Internet connection speed, but it is more friendly to the personal computer user than the Mac user. (Some of the games do not work, and a few pages looked weird.)

Other than hoping for more content, especially from children who have submitted original articles, and a search engine, I enjoyed the selection of activities and news.

Don't miss:

Two high school students created an excellent tour of the cosmos found in Info Central. Titled "A Virtual Journey Into the Universe," the module highlights the programming expertise of Young Lee and Russell Cook while giving visitors a view looking out of a spaceship to see a revolving illustration of the solar system with multiple dynamic links to everything from the statistics on individual planets to theories of space, famous astronomers and even interactive movies.

I applaud the guts of Kids-newsroom.org's editors for adding this module to its content, because even though it makes Kidsnewsroom look incredibly boring by comparison, it adds educational value to the site's pages.

Family activity:

The creators hope the site encourages children not only to read a newspaper every day, but also to find the time to write articles (that would be published by Kidsnewsroom.org, of course). Parents might consider printing out the weekly quiz and using it as a teaching tool to reinforce the importance of reading and discovering how much their offspring know about current events.

Cyber-sitter synopsis:

Younger children will love the games, and students will find enough information to formulate ideas for a report. However, the site needs more content to keep visitors hanging around before it can compete with the likes of Time for Kids (www.timeforkids.com) or CBBC Newsround Online (https://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/default.stm).

Overall grade: B

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).

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