Child-safety Web site launched

If you're worried about what your 12-year-old is getting into on the Internet, help may be at hand.

Looking to quell concerns over children's safety on the Web, some of the US's largest Internet firms have announced broad backing for a new Web site designed to educate parents about the worst of what the Internet has to offer, and suggest tips and software tools to help deal with it.

Called GetNetWise (http://www.GetNetWise.com), the site gives parents the low-down on what many perceive to be online hazards for children, including pornographic content, hate speech Web sites and molesters who use the Internet to meet children. The site identifies about 80 software tools parents can use to help control and monitor Internet access, and offers other advice on how to make the online experience a more wholesome one.

Officials from the largest companies active on the Internet, including America Online, Microsoft and Disney Online, joined with a handful of non-profits to talk up the venture at a press conference in Washington. The Internet firms all will provide links to GetNetWise from their Web portals, making the resource just "one click away" for 95 per cent of Internet users, the officials said.

"These resources have always been available, (and) they're getting more and more diverse. But they've never been made available at one site ... and they've never been made available at every entrance point to the Internet," said Jerry Berman, president of non-profit group The Internet Education Foundation.

Berman's group managed the project and built the Web site, with AT&T and AOL acting as co-chairs, and financial support from dozens more companies and associations. Parents can identify links to the Web site by its blue and white logo, which features an adult's hand steering a child's smaller hand on a computer mouse.

Microsoft CEO Bob Herbold admitted that GetNetWise is only part of the answer to the issue of protecting kids online. "It's going to take education, adult supervision and technology to cope with the issues we're struggling with; all these are needed to ensure kids have a safe and educational online experience."

The Web site notes that in many cases, young people know more about the Web and computers than their parents or teachers. "If that's the case in your home or classroom, don't despair. You can use this as an opportunity to turn the tables by having your child teach you a thing or two about the Internet," the site advises.

GetNetWise suggests tools parents can use to limit access based on keywords or a Web site's address. Monitoring tools that track sites visited are another option. The site recommends that parents discuss the use of such tools with their son or daughter, but doesn't rule out a sly scroll through their history folder in Internet Explorer.

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James Niccolai

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