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THE CUTTING EDGE / PERSONAL TECHNOLOGY | PC FOCUS /
LAWRENCE J. MAGID

A Chance for Parents to Take a Little Timeout

September 15, 1997|LAWRENCE J. MAGID

As a parent of two children, I can verify that kids really don't come with an instruction manual. But, thanks to the Web, there are plenty of places parents can go for advice, consolation and maybe a bit of adult companionship with others struggling with some of the same issues.

Parent Soup (http://www.parentsoup.com or keyword:parentsoup on America Online) is probably the best-known parent site, and it features everything from a baby-name finder to advice for parents with grown children. You'll find activities, recipes and plenty of advice on topics related to child rearing.

There are also reviews of children's books, software, movies, toys and essentials, as well as plenty of age-specific advice on such subjects as talking to children about sex, home schooling, homework help, getting into college and more.

The site isn't just a one-way source of information. It is also a membership community that encourages members to communicate with one another. You don't have to be a member to access the site, but you do have to join to participate in chats and forums.

Membership is free, and the form asks only your full name, e-mail address and preferred user name and password. The site, like most listed here, is supported through advertising.

In keeping with the community spirit, there are several chat sessions and discussion forums conducted throughout the day both on the Web site and AOL.

Parent Soup encourages members to create their own "cyberfridge," where they can post information about their family, including photos and names and ages of children. You get to choose what information or photos are posted, but I didn't notice any warnings about the possible dangers of putting such information on the Web.

I understand how posting such information can create a sense of community and help like-minded people find each other, but I urge caution before posting any personal information, especially about children, on the Web.

Parent Soup's sister site (http://www.parentsplace.com), offers yet another collection of articles, chats and other resources.

Parent Time (http://www.parenttime.com), a joint project of Time Warner and Procter & Gamble, takes a different approach. Although the site sponsors nightly chats, it mostly offers advice with articles from experts such as medical doctors Benjamin Spock and Nancy Synderman, sex guru Dr. Ruth Westheimer, house-cleaning expert Dale Burg and others.

At first glance, the site doesn't seem to have all that much information, but as you click on its links, you discover that there's a treasure trove of detail about things parents need to know. The site has a handy tool for finding age-specific information. Click on the child's age, and you get a customized view of the site based on the age you entered. I clicked on 13 and was taken to an area with a guided tour for parents of teenagers and other material that, hopefully, will make it easier for me to understand my daughter. I can dream, can't I?

Disney's Family.com (http://www.family.com) is yet another advertiser-supported advice center for parents. The site has some information about the teen years but seems to specialize mainly in the under-12 crowd. On each page there are two handy pull-down menus that let you select the child's age and a topic to explore.

You'll also find an area where you can find family-related information on computing, travel, activities, food and learning. There is also a local section where you can select a state and city to find resources closer to home.

Los Angeles information, for example, is provided by LA Parent magazine and includes information about local schools and area activities.

National Parent Information Network (http://ericps.crc.uiuc.edu/npin/npinhome.html) from the ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education, is one of the few Web sites that focuses on the needs of minority parents. It's not as slick as some of the commercial sites, but there is plenty of solid information, including links to parenting discussion lists and an area where you can submit questions on child development, child care and child rearing.

Parents with very young children should check out BabyCenter (http://www.babycenter.com), which provides advice for parents and expectant parents. The baby care area has a long list of articles covering just about anything you need to know to care for little ones. You'll find information on pregnancy, working parents and more.

Most of the general parenting sites deal with adoption issues, but if you want to be fully plugged into the adoption community, check out AdoptioNetwork (http://www.adoption.org).

Helping kids learn is a major parental responsibility and the FamilyEducation Network (http://www.familyeducation.com/) can help.

There is expert advice from a pediatrician, family therapist and a special-needs expert. The site is extremely well designed and, unlike some sites, has a section that describes its sponsoring organizations. I appreciate knowing who is running the sites I visit.

Lawrence J. Magid can be reached via e-mail at magid@latimes.com. His World Wide Web page is at http://www.larrysworld.com

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