Call it the World Wide Sandbox.
In the wake of a study showing that 14 percent of Americans under the age of 18 are logging onto the Internet (see related story), one company is taking the younger end of that age group very seriously. SystemSoft next week will announce a software suite that includes a Web browser designed for children 4-8 years old.
Dubbed "KiddoNet," the browser will allow its young users access only to a small number of predetermined sites.
"This product is like putting a fence around your child's sandbox," said a SystemSoft spokeswoman. "It keeps them amused, occupied, and safe."
The browser, based on Microsoft's Internet Explorer, has what the company describes as "a cartoon-like interface with large, colorful buttons." It also features a "Play Area" with preloaded games, sing-along software, and even KiddoNews for keeping up on all the news that's fit for infants.
Critics of filtering software are handling the new product with kid gloves.
"I'm trying to think of 4- to 8-year-olds that I know," said Bennett Haselton, coordinator of anti-filtering group Peacefire. "I don't know if I'd let any of them get on my computer, let alone the Internet."