For parents a few mouse-clicks behind their kids on the Internet, help has arrived: software baby-gates.
These blocking or filtering devices help prevent children from falling prey to any nasty spiders on the Internet's World Wide Web.
Whether the dangers are indecent sites or electronic chat rooms with anonymous pedophiles, a whole industry is booming to help parents (and schools and libraries) guide children toward safe surfing.
The best advice for parents is to sit with their child at the computer and know what the Web offers in its galaxy of goodies and how a child is using it. Linking to the many fun and educational kid sites can temper the temptation to trip down dark alleys of the Web.
But like TV before it, the Web is ripe for some sort of regulation. Right now, the jury's still out on whether government, companies, or parents - or all three - will do the regulating.
National on-line-service providers, such as CompuServe and America Online, police their own electronic byways. And companies eager to fend off government regulation are rushing to set industry standards to help parents block access to dubious Web sites or to use rating systems to judge content.
Netscape, Microsoft, and other companies have put their stamp of approval on just such an emerging standard, called Platform for Internet Content Selection (PICS), as a filter system for site selection.
Here are some software programs to help parents guide a child's use of the Web:
* SurfWatch Software's SurfWatch
* Cyber Patrol from Microsystems Software
* NewView Inc.'s Specs for Kids
* Solid Oak Software's CYBERSitter
* InterGo's KinderGuard
* Trove Investment Corp.'s Net Nanny
* Turner Investigation, Research, and Communication and
J.D. Koftinoff Software Ltd.'s Internet Filter
* Net Shepherd Inc.'s daxHOUND
* PCDataPower's Rated-PG
Here are a few helpful sites that keep track of issues on the Web and children:
* Recreational Software Advisory Council http://www.rsac.org
* Project OPEN
* Larry Magid's Kids Page
* SAFE-T-CHILD On-line
* FRIDGE ARTZ
* The Internet Advocate