- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 26, 2004

One powerful branch of the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has spent almost a century protecting U.S. residents from criminal activity ranging from civil rights violations to child pornography.

Two child-friendly sites attempt to shed light on the work of the FBI by explaining many of its daily functions and teaching children about its multifaceted history.

FBI Youth and FBI Kids pages

Site addresses: www.fbi.gov/kids/6th12th/6th12th.htm and www.fbi.gov/kids/k5th/kidsk5th.htm

Creator: The FBI public affairs group and technical division, located at the J. Edgar Hoover Building, 935 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, designed and programmed the sites.

Creator quotable: “We created this site in hopes that kids would have fun with it … and learn some important lessons along the way about safety, about right and wrong, about the FBI and its casework,” says Susan McKee, public affairs specialist in the FBI Office of Public Affairs. “Kids today are so smart — we wanted to challenge their skill to solve crimes, and we also wanted them to think about how important it is to do something about crime and injustice in the world.”

Word from the Webwise: Broken into two stylistically different entities and geared toward students, the FBI sites present outdated designs for today’s multimedia generation but still deliver interesting content and important messages.

First, the Kids Page site, for kindergarten through fifth-grade students, offers a cartoony environment hosted by bomb-sniffing Labrador retrievers Shirley and Darrell.

Pages are navigated mostly via a school bus icon that culminates with a field trip into the history of the FBI. Other sections include an online Games area featuring a crossword puzzle and matching challenge, and a minisite devoted to the amazing working dogs of the FBI. It looks at their many uses and gives biographies and photos of all the pooches.

Next, the FBI Youth site, for sixth- to 12th-graders, provides a slicker style, but its pages still rely on simple icon clicks and text links to maneuver through its sections.

The best of the sections offer a timeline of the bureau with content links to some of its famous agents and infamous criminals (History); a look at a day in the life of a fictional special agent, including four video clips (Day in the Life); the SA Challenge, which requires young agents in training to answer questions on the FBI by reading through the site; and a simple analysis of investigative techniques used in four real cases (FBI Adventures).

The site’s other sections, such as Games and Working Dogs, are duplicates from the Kids Page.

Ease of use: Visitors should have at least a high-speed dial-up connection, the latest Macromedia Flash and Shockwave plug-ins, either Quicktime or Real Player, and a browser that supports JavaScript.

Don’t miss: Under Games, found on either site, masters of disguise may appreciate manipulating the look of Special Agent Bobby Bureau by clicking and dragging 22 different facial features onto a photo ID of the famed investigator.

Family activity: Parents will want their younger offspring to read carefully and follow the rules in real life, presented in the Safety section of the FBI Kids site. The colorful pages, which are navigated by the familiar school bus icon, cover topics such as dealing with strangers, gun safety and using the Internet.

Cyber-sitter synopsis: Children will spend about 30 minutes zooming through either destination before looking for deeper and more interactive fun. Those in need of a school report may benefit most from the FBI Youth site.

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]washingtontimes.com).

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