By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TVBy Paula Ebben

BOSTON (CBS) – You might think the hours your kids spend on the web are a waste of time, but what if they were surfing web sites that let them explore potential careers?

These days, kids can actually get some pretty hands-on experience at a young age on the internet.

Take Parker Williams. She is just 11 years old now, but she has some big dreams.

“Since I was five, I wanted to be a superstar,” said Parker. And just in case, she also has back-up plans. “A physical therapist, fashion designer, photographer.”

WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben reports

Parker is investigating those options online, on some of the many new websites geared toward kids looking deeper into hobbies that could be careers.

If your child can’t physically shadow a professional in the field of their dreams, this could be the next best thing.

“Playing on these sites as opposed to the real world experience allows the kid to investigate areas that they are particularly interested in,” says Mary Heston, of

She says the sites use interactive tools to allow hands-on creativity. Her favorites include: the San Francisco Symphony’s, where kids can make music; Architect Studio 3-D for creating buildings; and Tikatok to write their own books.

Another web site, called Fashion Playtes, is for budding designers.

“When we created Fashion Playtes we really tried to emulate an experience of a real designer,” says Sarah McIlroy, creator of “So we tried to bring in a color choice pallet and embellishments very similar to what a designer would do in the real world.”

Parker’s Mom, Liz Williams, sees the sites as valuable safe places to play and learn.

“You get some opportunities you may not have in real life,” she says. “Not everyone is going to be able to go spend a day with a fashion designer or go to a factory.”

Heston says if your children have an interest in a certain occupation, you can search for a site that peaks their professional curiosity. Just keep a couple of things in mind.

“Who is funding the site? Look at the “about us” page to see what the catch is to the site. If they don’t have that information I’d be very leery of the site,” Heston says.

The sites we evaluated are free to play on unless you decide to make a purchase. You should be cautious of any sites that require online purchases.

According to this year’s Jobs Rated report, the most rewarding and satisfying career is software engineering, which involves the design and creation of software for everything from computer operating systems, to cell phone “apps,” to interactive games.


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