What on earth are cookies anyway?

Cookies are small snippets of information (usually letters and numbers) that are placed onto your computer by a website. They don't do anything to your computer. They are simply bits of information that can be accessed at a later time by the website. Basically, they remember things. Some of them stay on your computer for as long as you are on the website. Others may be set to stay there for years.

What are they used for?

The vast majority of websites use cookies. Many cookies are simply there to help with the nuts and bolts of the everyday working of a website and to ensure that the site is as easy to use as possible. For example when users log in to a website, a cookie may be used to remember that they are logged in. Without this, users may have to log in to each and every page they wish to access.

Many websites also use cookies to get a picture of how people are using their site. PhonicsPlayComics uses Google Analytics for this purpose. It lets us get an overview of how our users interact with our site (how long they stay, which pages are visited most, which ones are rarely visited etc). This gives us a lot of information to help us to keep on improving the website but it doesn't give us any personally identifying information about you.

Some cookies are used to target advertising for you based on other websites that you have visited. This is known as interest based advertising or behavioural advertising.

Should we be worried about cookies?

Cookies are simply tiny bits of information and, in themselves, are not a cause for concern. As with any information though, concerns can arise around how that information may be used. Some people are concerned that so many tiny bits of information are being collected by large companies that it actually adds up to quite a lot of information.

Some people feel that this is all fine as long as none of the information is personally identifiable. Others actually like the fact that this information makes their online experiences more personalised. However, some people feel very uncomfortable that information is being collected and used in this way and consider it an invasion of their privacy.

How are cookies used on PhonicsPlayComics?

A cookie is used to keep track of your consent for the use of cookies. In addition, there is one main way that cookies are used on the PhonicsPlayComics website.

Google Analytics cookies.

These cookies come from Google and help us to get a picture of how people use our website. They may remain on your computer for up to 2 years.

Google Analytics is software that collects information about users of websites.

What information is collected? - A wide range of data is collected including: your IP address (which may indicate which country and city you are in); details about the computer you are using (including your operating system, internet browser, Flash version, screen resolution etc); how long you stay on the site; the pages you visit; the sites you come from and exit to.

This information is NOT collected by Google Analytics - Your name, address, phone number, email address, credit card or banking details, or any other personally identifying information.

What do we use the information for? - The collected information is compiled into reports by Google. This allows us to answer questions that help us to understand how users make use of this site. E.g. Which pages are most and least popular? Where in the world do our users come from? How do users find their way to the site? Which parts of the site are users' computers capable of accessing?

This is invaluable in helping us to improve the site.

How does Google use the data? - Google stores this information on servers in the United States. In addition to collecting the data and compiling reports for website owners, Google may transfer data to third parties where required to do so by law or where third parties process information on Google's behalf. Google will not associate your IP address with any other data that they hold.

Cookie names: _utma, _utmb, _utmc, _utmz.

If you do not wish information about your website visits to be sent to Google Analytics, you may download a plugin to prevent this. Google Analytics Opt Out Plugin

Taking control of your browser

Browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari etc all have security settings that allow you to control whether or not you want to accept cookies on your computer. See your browser's help files for more information. These controls are changing and improving all the time.

And finally...A great cookie recipe

200g Softened butter

100g Soft brown sugar

100g Granulated sugar

1 egg

1/2 tspn Vanilla essence

225g Plain flour

1/2 tspn Bicarbonate of soda

Pinch of salt

200g Chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a baking sheet with non-stick paper.

Cream butter and sugar until soft and fluffy then beat in the egg and vanilla essence. Stir in the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and finally the chocolate chips.

Place teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking sheet. Leave at least 10cm spaces between cookies (they will spread in the oven).

Bake for 15 minutes. Leave to cool slightly then transfer onto a wire cooling rack.


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