Fun, safe sites for tweens
August 14, 2022 4:52 PM   Subscribe

With Mini McGee entering high school, we have entered the Brave New World of children with phones. What are some interesting sites we could add to his browser's "allowed" list?

It's a pretty strictly managed device*, but we're trying to create safe baby steps for him to venture on to the internet on a personal (rather than family) device.

We are using an "allowed" list for sites he can visit, with everything else blocked. Currently includes Wikipedia, NASA,, The Guardian, Khan Academy, his school's sites, the local library, ArsTechnica, Atlas Obscura, etc. What other sites would you add to this list? I am also down for cool app suggestions! (Android)

*Just because I know MetaFilter tends to get distracted by questions of parenting in questions about kid internet access: Unfettered internet access in the past for this child got really problematic, really fast. As part of having a personal device, we talked to his support team & teachers, and then he sat down with us (his parents) and we negotiated a personal device contract with clear rules and limits, that gives him access to the things he wants (texting friends, accessing certain games and sites) while putting up strong guardrails for now. We've all agreed to a "graduated license" for internet access, where proving he can be responsible with limited access will gradually lead to fewer restrictions. Also I realize I said he's entering HS but he skipped a couple grades so he's quite young. We're a "wait until 8th" family, like many families in our school system.
posted by Eyebrows McGee to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I would definitely recommend You could consider

You could consider— though i don’t know if your kid would be into it — I don’t know him much is hosted there vs linking to other sites.

Normally I would recommend but it seems like you have deliberately blocked youtube which is understandable, and the linked music is mostly youtube. You may consider bandcamp for streaming music. Bandcamp also offers the opportunity to purchase music so that may need to be a discussion.

I think it would be helpful to know a bit more about the kid’s interests, and then people can recommend more specific sites.
posted by Hypatia at 5:24 PM on August 14

Response by poster: "I think it would be helpful to know a bit more about the kid’s interests"

Pokemon, transit, Minecraft, and ALL THE SCIENCE FROM WHATEVER SOURCE DERIVED. We've made good progress on interest in current events (and politics) with The Week Junior, but interest in fiction/human interest/"soft skills" remains spotty. He always enjoys history -- but we have to talk him into reading about it, because he's always convinced he'll be bored by history, because it isn't science. We and his teachers would love for him to be more interested in "other human perspectives," in terms of being interested in fiction/first-person stories/soft-skills/psychology/history types of things, since he tends to be a "one right way to do things, and that way is science" kid. But we're much more about a "make interesting things available" way than a "make things mandatory" way.

He did a summer school class about the History of Chicago this summer, and enjoyed the HECK out of it. We've just gotten him reading Terry Pratchett, and that's going good. He likes to (flat-water) kayak.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:40 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]

Just taking clues from your current allowed list,, Science News, and UPI come to mind. Probably Wiktionary and, if he's taking another language, the Wiktionary subdomain for it and relevant apps (Duolingo, Google Translate, etc.). Maybe WolframAlpha as basically a nice calculator (which also has a Pro for Students edition with an infinite K-12 problem generator). If you already have Spotify, you probably know there's a Kids version.

Since you mention Pokémon, Bulbagarden / Bulbapedia and the free shows online at, assuming something like that hasn't been an issue.
posted by Wobbuffet at 5:47 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]

Many museums have put huge chunks of their collections online. Here's a good one from the UK, with hundreds of thousands of objects and stories and here's a virtual tour of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, to name two.

About the whole objection to history thing... The History of Science Museum in Oxford has an admirable jumping-in point with the low-key leading question of how current science got to be where it did.

I think the trick with museums is to add them in slowly, ad hoc, following his "glance", as it were.
posted by Shunra at 6:34 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]

How about:

Shorpy. An American Historical Photo Archive.

Free Code Camp, if he's interested in coding.

Mario's Math Tutoring, which is on YouTube, but a workaround is to use an app like Wondershare All My Tube to download anything on YouTube that he's interested in (and parent-approved), then put those videos on his phone later.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 8:17 PM on August 14

I consume PBS's digital content via Youtube but their digital shows are also accessible on the PBS website. I've only really watched It's Lit, Monstrum/Fate & Fabled, and Eons but there is a lot of science/social science content beyond those three shows.

If you're willing to pay for content, Curiostiy Stream has a website for documentaries. I do not have a subscription - the service came to my attention from watching Eons and other science YouTube channels - but an annual plan is $2.99 a month or $19.99 a year. Maybe you can sign up for a few months and then assess whether he enjoys the service enough to pay for a year.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 8:34 PM on August 14

Is there a local news site?
posted by trig at 11:29 PM on August 14

Is there a local news site?
Actually, news sites in general. He may not have a strong interest in exploring them, but if he does get curious about something going on in the world won't you want him to be able to check for info in the Sun Times and the Tribune for regional news and probably the NYT, WaPo, and other sources for national and world news? (Also, why not throw in at least a few non-US sites for more perspective while you're at it?)
posted by Nerd of the North at 12:31 AM on August 15

My husband found the site Interesting Engineering and they really have some good articles.

The website for Archaeology Magazine usually has some good stuff. This is history but with a science of the past focus, if you know what I mean.

For news, how about the BBC? Their android phone app is actually pretty decent as well and if breaking news alerts are enabled, he would get a perspective on world news as well as U.S. coverage. NPR news also might be good.
posted by gudrun at 7:00 AM on August 15

My husband loves the Marine Traffic site (includes fresh water!) and one of the international space station tracking apps. It pings his phone and says "Go outside now to see the ISS!"

I really love BirdNet and PlantNet apps. Both ad free, both easy to use. The BirdNet one is especially great because you can see the pattern of the song's frequency. Somehow that makes the song stick in my head much better.
posted by jebs at 7:23 AM on August 15

Mongabay News is an environmental non-profit that does a lot of reporting on current issues, if he is interested in the environment, this would help demonstrate how human interests are related to that.

Merlin is a free app from the Cornell Bird lab, which does ID from song or easy visual characteristics, it also integrates with eBird for tracking sightings, which definitely scratches my Pokémon-catch-them-all impluse and the data gets used in research.
posted by momus_window at 8:14 AM on August 15 [1 favorite]

In case they're not in the list yet, dictionary and thesaurus sites and apps.

And seconding the recommendation to have access to lots of different news sites. Different sources cover different stories, or do the same stories but with different angles or at different levels of depth, and it's good for kids to be aware of that and able to compare (and find the sources that work best for them). If you think he'd be interested, think about adding sources from many more countries to the list.
posted by trig at 8:51 AM on August 15

Obviously social media is problematic in many ways but one way he might ease into the concept is with with something like iNaturalist. It allows limited interaction with other users but is very science oriented and fun in a "I've seen 12 difference kinds of bugs including this one I don't know what it is, does anyone else?" kind of way.
posted by macfly at 5:13 PM on August 15

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