My 3rd grade student regularly go to the computer lab and go though different sites. In choosing a website for them, what we (Teacher) should consider first.
2. Size of the text
3. Nice colorful graphics.
Definitely review the site in its entirety first. Make sure there are no pop-ups or confusing directions. Make sure they can't easily get lost and end up in an inappropriate area. Finally, make sure that there is actually a valuable educational activity going on there.
I would say the most important thing is the information on the web site. Is it factual and on a level that third graders can read and understand it. As someone else mentioned you want to make sure the page does not have a bunch of pop ups or links to other sites.
I'd like to make a case for a corollary to these issues. Let's face it--kids at this age generally already have a lit of experience in this area. What they haven't learned is to be discerning about the accuracy and/or truthfulness of the sites they visit. One of the myths which starts so very early is that anything on the Internet is true and to be believed. By the time I get them in high school, they should be skeptical and thorough for each site they might want to use for research. Instead, they're often rather complacent and lazy when it comes to such issues. You do them a great service if you choose educational websites based on accuracy and relevance as well as "nice, colorful graphics."
The first answer that comes to mind is the link. Why? Because many times children and student websites are linked maliciously to phishing, spamming, and other inappropriate websites because the cybercriminal KNOWS that children are going to be the primary site surfers and will likely click in something that Mom and Dad feel sounds "safe" and "kid-like".
Size of text would be my second opinion because already those who are webmasters of elementary school sites KNOW that children need a specific font and size. And if they do not know this, they simply will not have as many hits: Kids hate squinting.
Graphics are always important to attract the attention of children, but they must serve a specific purpose. They should be a representation for a skill-based activity. Colorful graphics can be found anywhere in the net these days, even for adult sites, so really that is a given that they will be included.
I would say that the third grader who consistently uses the computers is much more savvy than we can understand. I don't think we do them any favors when we presume their internet skills are low. I think that when we are helping to find sites for them, we should look at how information is presented. There is nothing wrong with selecting sites for 3rd graders that have valid information presented in a kid friendly manner. Certainly, graphics and text size are a part of this. Yet, the driving force has to be information. Does the website present enough information that will allow the third grader to understand the information presented as relevant to their research. Cosmetic configuration is important at such an age, but I see them as more savvy because they have grown up all their lives with a technological dimension. They understand how to text or how to operate a cell phone before any other children in history. They understand the internet as part of who they are and their identity. In this light, making the call that they are savvy enough to understand the informational dimensions of the internet is what will allow us to suggest websites for kids that has information presented in a grade appropriate manner for understanding and comprehension.
Things that should be considered first are:
1) Is it in the best interests of the student to do this?
2) What should they be looking at to develop their knowledge and understanding?
3) What should they be doing with the information that they gain from this?
These are all primary things to consider first.