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AOL hands Mac users tighter Net reins

America Online updates its Internet access software, offering parents expanded controls and adding new antispam features.

America Online Thursday introduced an updated version of its AOL Internet access software for Mac OS X that includes expanded parental controls and new antispam features.

The software, which is available as a free download for existing AOL customers, contains enhanced parental controls that prevent children from using outside Web browsers. It also provides a new AOL Guardian feature, which sends parents detailed e-mail reports of their children's surfing habits. Parents also can remotely set restrictions on chat, Web access and IM by visiting

Mac OS X users also will be able to take advantage of AOL's "report spam" button for the first time. The feature, introduced last fall for PC users, lets people report multiple pieces of spam to AOL, which will assist the company in developing better antispam tools.

AOL also is stepping up its marketing aimed at high-speed users of Mac OS X. The company is touting its AOL for Broadband BYOA (bring your own access) subscriptions. The subscriptions let people who already have high-speed accounts use AOL's features, including multiple log-ins for up to seven screen names.

AOL first introduced a Mac OS X version of its software in 2001. Recently, other Internet service providers, including MSN and United Online, have increased their focus on the often neglected Mac market.

AOL said the newest version of its software builds on features Mac customers have requested. "With our latest version of AOL for Mac OS X, we've updated the AOL experience to give consumers what they've told us they want most," said David Gang, executive vice president for AOL products, product marketing and technology development.

AOL also promised to release preview version of AOL Communicator for Mac OS X this summer, which will integrate instant messaging, AOL Mail and AOL address book.