Raising Kids In A Digital World

Some of the Internet's most visited sites are putting their rivalries aside for a project to help parents keep their children away from harmful Web pages.

America Online, Lycos Inc., The Walt Disney Co., Microsoft Corp., Yahoo! and others launched a Web site Thursday that includes details about more than 80 commercial software programs parents can use to block Web sites inappropriate for children. It also has collections of recommended sites deemed safe for children of different ages.

Companies in the campaign, which claim almost 95 percent of the Internet's traffic flows through their sites, will offer prominent connections to the site, www.getnetwise.org, or recompile the information and present it themselves. That's partly a concession to ultra-competitive high-tech companies, which struggle to keep consumers from spending time at Web sites not under their control.

Vice President Al Gore and Commerce Secretary William Daley joined company executives at a news conference to unveil the $1 million site.

"There is so much out there that's good on the Internet, it would be a pity for a parent to tell a child not to go on the Internet because they were afraid," said David Baker, a vice president at MindSpring Enterprises Inc., one of the largest Internet providers nationwide.

Although some companies that design Internet filtering software helped pay for the site, details about all such technology tools are listed.

Ernie Allen, chief executive officer for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said organizers sought to design the Web site for parents anxious about what children might find online.

"It's an incredible resource, but it's scary," Allen said. "Your kids know more about it than you do."

Participation in the campaign was so broad that it brought together otherwise bitter rivals: Microsoft and AOL, currently feuding over software that lets consumers send electronic "instant messages," - as well as AT&T and the nation's Internet providers, which are battling over the future of high-speed Web access over cable-television lines.

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