I am a brand-new parent, and I am already worrying about how I'm going to protect my kid when he goes online in a few years. Defense number one is active parenting, but there are also a lot of tools that will tell you what your kids are up to. Still, who wants to monitor every keystroke or Web page a child visits? A newish product, BeNetSafe, takes an interesting approach. It monitors social networks (MySpace and, as of today, Xanga) for your child's activity on the Net and reports to you if he or she is posting potentially dangerous information, such as phone number, hometown, or school. It'll also report to you who your kid's online friends are.
BeNetSafe won't tell you what your child is doing on the rest of the Web, in e-mail, in IM, or in chat rooms, but it does chaperone kids in their most popular hangout, and it does send you reports that a parent can actually read (as opposed to a typical 12-year-old's MySpace page). The company plans to launch monitoring of other social networks (such as Facebook) soon.
A child's safety is priceless, but BeNetSafe does seem overpriced for what it does, at $50 a year. Smart parents will also want to set up RSS or Google search alerts for personal information and practice other forms of safe computing. See Download.com's feature on family-proofing your PC for more.