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CD/Internet-based offering lets kids go online safely


My six-year-old daughter loves it when we go online to hunt for answers.

We've identified fossils she's found in her Papaw's driveway, researched animals she's talked about in school and learned more about "The Rug Rats" than I thought possible.

And she's soaked it all up, and has been eager to explore online on her own.

She's capable of handling the computer, but there's the issue of her own safety online. Realistically, you're seldom more than a few misplaced mouse clicks away from content that's inappropriate for a six year old.

My search for a simple solution to this problem showed up recently in the mail.

The lively packaged CD-ROM from JuniorNet promised to be "A new kind of online service just for kids," specifically, those under age 12.

JuniorNet is a hybrid -- it uses a CD-ROM and information off the Internet to create a colorful, interactive and safe online world for kids to explore.

Anyone who's used the Web is forced to wait for a Web site's graphics to load. But with JuniorNet, there's no wait -- JuniorNet graphics are stored on the CD-ROM, keeping them instant available.

JuniorNet makes great use of Macromedia Flash and the animation. The graphics flash and the music plays with no delay.

JuniorNet's content is first rate. It includes content areas provided by Highlights, Sports Illustrated for Kids, Weekly Reader, Ranger Rick, and Zillions, a magazine from Consumer Reports. It's entertaining and educational.

The Highlights content area includes a favorite of mine from my own childhood -- "Hidden Pictures." The difference is that the picture is interactive, and you use a mouse click to select the hidden items.

In addition to the great content, JuniorNet users also get an e-mail account, referred to as "Steam Mail," that lets kids safely exchange messages with other JuniorNet users.

JuniorNet keeps kids safe when surfing with an interface that only communicates with JuniorNet's servers. There's no way to break out of the JuniorNet environment and go anywhere else online unless you start a separate Web browser program.

No matter how safe it is, the real acid test was what my kids thought of JuniorNet.

My daughter needed my help with some of the larger words at first, but quickly began to ask to use JuniorNet after supper every night. My three-year-old enjoys the lively graphics, music and especially "Clik," a blue bug that's the official JuniorNet mascot and host of each visit online.

JuniorNet hasn't forgotten parents' needs. There's a parent's interface for JuniorNet for full parental control of your child's account. The JuniorNet Web site has an extensive parent's area, and you can learn what's new in JuniorNet and use that information to help coordinate your own activities to tie in with JuniorNet.

You can call or sign up online for a free JuniorNet CD and a 30-day free trial. After the initial trial period, the service costs $9.95 per month.

You'll still need an Internet connection to use JuniorNet, along with a Pentium-class computer with at least 32 Megs of memory.

You can learn more about JuniorNet at their Web site, www.juniornet.com.

AOL UPGRADE. If you count yourself as one of the millions of America Online subscribers, you can prepare for a software upgrade soon.

America Online's latest access software is set for debut on Tuesday.

The software upgrade will give users some long-awaited features.

Among those are improved, simpler navigation; a new "You've Got Photos" feature; improved access to AOL's calendar feature; and users will be able to user longer screen names and have more of them (AOL now has a five screen names per account limit).

AOL 5.0 will also offer high-speed Internet access support for those in markets with cable modems or other broadband networks.

A new welcome screen highlighting the improved navigation will greet AOL subscribers. The new screen also will tout AOL's new partnership with Kodak.

The "You've Got Pictures" program allows camera buffs to have their film processed by Kodak and the photos uploaded to AOL for them. From AOL they can be downloaded, passed along with e-mail, etc.

If you're an AOL subscriber and curious about the new software, you can download it prior to its release by typing in "keyword: upgrade."

For more information about AOL, visit their Web site at www.aol.com.

NEW NETSCAPE. Netscape has released an updated version of its Communicator software.

The new browser includes a feature that gives users one-click access to a Netscape online shopping portal, Shop@Netscape.com.

Communicator 4.7 also includes patches and updates, including a new version of Netscape Radio; WinAmp 2.5, a digital music player; Macromedia Flash Player 4.0; a keyword Internet search feature; and the updated version of AOL Instant Messenger.

For more information visit the Netscape Web site at

E-MAIL IS TOPS. Electronic mail is the number one reason people in the U.S. go line, according to a new survey.

About 48 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed said e-mail was their primary reason to go online, according to the survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Research came in at 28 percent.

Forty-three percent of U.S. homes have Internet access, the survey said. Last year's survey put that figure at 27 percent.

NEW iMAC COMING. There's a new iMac that should debut this month, and Apple Computers is working hard to make sure no one steals their thunder.

The company has been actively pursuing Mac-fan Web sites that published photos and specifications of the yet-to-be-officially released computers.

Apple lawyers have been sending out cease-and-desist letters to U.S. and international Webmasters, ordering them to take off material that is likely been stolen from the computer maker.

The iMac excitement is over the next-generation iMac computer, which allegedly will be available in the "graphite" case that graces the hot new Apple G4s.

Publishing the photos amounts to theft of trade secrets, according to Apple lawyers.

Other rumors say the iMac line will be split up into three product lines, with a variety of models and features to cover a wide range of needs.

eBAY GOES LOCAL. There's no doubt that the eBay auction site is the Godzilla of auction Web sites.

While being King of the Hill is good, a C|Net story last week said the company may look to enter into regional auction sites.

C|Net reported that a Bloomberg News story says the company will create 53 regional auction sites by the year's end.

A test of a regional site covering Los Angeles, Calif., was successful, and allowed bidders the convenience of picking the items up in person.

Regional auctions also allow the sale of items impossible or too costly to ship.

Estimates now indicate that eBay has a 70 percent share of the online auction market -- and moves like these are hoped to help it keep its dominance.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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