Yesterday, I wrote about Linux distributions designed with kids’ needs in mind and some of the software for children that runs on Linux. Today I thought I’d share some of the other resources I came across while researching a likely candidate to install on my nephew’s and niece’s new PC.
- Switching Your Kids to Linux by Scott K. This is a great primer for parents getting ready to give their kids a Linux system. The author walks parents through the steps of getting your kids ready, such as making sure open source software like Firefox, Pidgin, and Thunderbird are already installed on any Windows systems your kids might use, so that when you give them their Linux system, the only thing they have to get used to is the new interface, not new programs.
Be sure to read the comments on this one for some further insights and advice from other parents who are teaching their kids to use Linux.
- The Linux for Kids Experiment. Paul Barry at Linux Journal relates his experience getting his kids to use Linux – which proved to be easier than even he had thought. One good tip he gives is to set up a window with links to all the kids’ favorite apps (or the most appropriate ones) so that kids can access them more easily. Again, there’s some good information in the comments, too.
- SchoolForge is a directory of open source educational software. Though SchoolForge includes software for Windows and Mac as well as Linux, most programs will run on Linux and everything is clearly marked.
- Open Source Programming Languages for Kids. Although not every kid will be interested in learning to program, some will, and Linux offers plenty of tools to help kids learn from basic to pretty advanced programming concepts. Ryan McGrath reviews three programming languages and kid-friendly environments to learn how to use them. These will run on Windows or Mac, too, so don’t feel left out if you aren’t quite ready to build a Linux system for your kids!
- Using Linux to Teach Kids How to Program by Anderson Silva. Since programming is a complex skill, parents may want a little direction in how to get their kids started. Anderson Silva discusses some of the basics of LOGO, a programming tool where kids learn programming syntax to make a “turtle” draw pictures.
- KidZui is a Firefox extension that transforms your plain-vanilla browser into a kid-safe Web browsing environment, with access to hundreds of thousands of pre-screened websites, videos, and games. It is vital, of course, that you teach your kids safe browsing habits and that you provide appropriate supervision when they’re using the Internet, but for younger kids this can be especially difficult – how do you explain what they shouldn’t do without having to explain concepts they may not be ready to understand? A safe “sandbox” like KidZui offers a safety net to back up your own instruction – and helps parents find fun stuff for their kids to do online, too!
- Adobe Flash Player. Because of licensing issues, many Linux distros do not come with Flash installed. However, your kids will quickly tire of their YouTube- and Flash-game-free computer, so it’s a good idea to get it installed quickly. Just go to the link from your kids’ Linux computer, select “Linux”, and follow the instructions to get Flash up and running on your Linux box.
- Free eBooks and AudioBooks for Mobile Computers. I went looking for a decent eBook reader for my nephew’s and niece’s computer, and found this site with links to dozens of eBook resources. Because it’s intended for mobile computing, some of the resources listed are for Linux-based PDAs, not PCs, but other than that there are a lot of great resources here, from readers to websites to download free AudioBooks and eBooks.
- YuuGuu. Since I’m going to be supporting this computer, I want to have some way to access it remotely. LogMeIn, my preferred remote access service, doesn’t have a Linux server yet (though one is supposed to be coming by the end of this year). VNC works great and is pre-installed on most distros, but is complex to set up on a home system behind a router and without a static IP address (if none of that means anything to you, it would be even more complex for you to do!). YuuGuu is the only desktop sharing service I could find that is both free and Linux-ready, so I’ll give it a try – the only downside is that it looks like I”ll have to have someone initiate a session from the kids’ computer in order to do remote support.
- My Game Company is a distributor of “family-friendly” games for all platforms, including Linux. Linux isn’t known as a gaming platform, but there are some pretty good titles out there, and even some commercial games. The owners of My Game Country screen them all for excessive violence, foul language, and adult sexuality to provide parents with games they can be sure won’t raise too many difficult questions in young players’ minds. Although the owners are explicitly Christian, the game content itself is not Christian – and I think the standards they use will please most parents Christian or otherwise.
I’m a little disappointed at the lack of resources available for parents looking to explore Linux with their kids. It’s surprising, since Linux has virtually created the huge niche of childhood computing as an affordable alternative to Windows for schools in poor countries. There are now-defunct sites like “linuxforkids.org” that appear to have once been developing resources, but are now only link farms. I’ll be happy to see new players on the field paying some attention to what seems poised to become an important computing niche.
Maybe you know some good resources. If you know of anything, let us know in the comments!