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Fisher-Price Easy Link Internet Launch Pad

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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Fisher-Price Easy Link Internet Launch Pad

Fisher-Price Easy Link Internet Launch Pad

Photo Courtesy of PriceGrabber
The Fisher-Price Internet Launch Pad is a device that connects to your computer via a USB port. It is designed to allow kids, ages 3 and up to browse kid-friendly sites on the Internet without the chance of them stumbling across pornography or other inappropriate content. Kids use special “keys” to tell the Launch Pad which site to visit.

Getting Started with the Fisher-Price Easy Link Internet Launch Pad

The Easy Link Launch Pad comes with the main device, three Easy Link keys, a mouse pad and installation software. Our Launch Pad included the Fisher-Price dog, Elmo (the Sesame Street website) and Zak/Wheezy (PBS Kids’ Dragon Tales site). Additional keys can be purchased in pairs and include Bob the Builder/Thomas the Tank Engine, Clifford/Arthur, and Barney/the Wiggles. The Launch Pad has slots to hold keys that aren’t in use and several navigational buttons.

After installing the software and plugging in the device, parents enter a password that keeps kids from exiting the program. Kids can then choose the key representing the site they’d like to visit. They explore the site using a mouse and the buttons on the Launch Pad. To change sites, they simply remove the old key and insert a new one. There are no stray ads, no pop-ups and no worry for adults.

What Parents Love About the Easy Link Internet Launch Pad

Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder Keys for the Easy Link Internet Launch Pad

Additional Easy Link Internet Launch Pad Keys

Photo Courtesy of PriceGrabber

The Easy Link Internet Launch Pad is a great product for parents who want their children to be online and don’t want to worry about kids accessing inappropriate websites or important computer files. While it’s running, the kids can’t press a “wrong” key and end up deleting everything on the desktop. It won’t keep them from pressing the power button, of course, so laptop users should keep that in mind.

The Launch Pad also has some nifty parental controls. You can limit the time your kids spend online in a session, which I highly recommend at this age. Even if you’re playing with them, it’s easy to lose track of time. You can also limit how much printing your child can do. Trust me, if you haven’t experienced the printing phenomenon, you will. Turn on the controls before your child learns how to print.

What's Not to Love About the Launch Pad

I had only a few minor complaints about the product. The first, and probably the biggest, is that the keys seemed a bit difficult to insert and remove. I expect many kids on the younger end of the age range will struggle with this. The second is that it doesn’t come with a child-friendly mouse. It’s a small issue, but it would have made the Easy Link a complete package. Lastly, there are a limited number of keys available right now. If the product takes off, this will certainly change, but if your child has favorite sites that aren’t on the list, or doesn’t like any of the ones that are, you’re out of luck.

There is one other issue that has nothing to do with the actual product. Most of the activities on the available sites require the use of a mouse. There are a couple of activities on the sites that are key-press activated, but your child will inevitably want the ones that aren’t. If your child doesn’t have the fine motor skills to manipulate a mouse, or just hasn’t learned how one works, you’ll be providing quite a bit of assistance.

The Bottom Line

Honestly, I have mixed feelings about encouraging parents to allow a 3-year-old to browse the web on his/her own. Of course, my ambivalence has little to do with the product, which is actually quite good. Although your child can use this to navigate freely without support, I would still recommend that computer time be a parent/child activity while they are still so young.

The Fisher-Price Easy Link Launch Pad gets an outstanding 4.5 stars for a high-quality product. If it had a kid-friendly mouse and less tricky keys, it would easily reach 5 stars. It does what it’s supposed to do and it does it well. If you have a web-savvy toddler/preschooler, this is the perfect gift.

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