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Web Sites Plug Parents In to Information, Support

October 15, 1998|MARY JO ZAFIS GARCIA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's 3 a.m., and you have just found gel-like crystals in the wet diaper of your newborn. Your "What to Expect When You Don't Know Squat About Babies" manual makes no mention of the mysterious substance. Not wanting to risk being fired by your pediatrician, you fire up your home computer instead. A few keystrokes later, you have your answer: The crystals are the byproduct of urine mixing with the moisture-absorbing material found in disposable diapers. Nothing to worry about. Go back to bed.

Parents, new and experienced, are turning to the Internet in droves for information, humor and support. Based on the proliferation of parenting sites out there, it is proving to be a useful tool for today's mom and dad. But before you start loading info from the sites we have listed here, a word of caution: Information culled from the Web should not be a substitute for consulting with your own team of enlisted professionals, particularly when dealing with issues regarding health.

ABCs of Parenting

URL: http://www.abcparenting.com

Chat Rooms: Yes

Bulletin Boards: Yes

Newsletter: Yes

Q&A With Experts: Yes

Personalization: No

Members-Only Privileges: Yes

User Polls: Yes

Keyword Search: Yes

Articles: Yes

Age Categories: Yes

Free E-Mail: No

Shopping: Yes

Primary Audience: Parents of children age 0-6.

The newest member of the ParenthoodWeb family of sites (ParenthoodWeb.com, the RecipeXchange.com and eSafety.com). Functions as an Internet directory and search engine, focusing on sites of interest to parents and parents-to-be. Its home page presents a clean, no-nonsense format of categories.

Highlight: A support section devoted to special interests, including parents of children with attention deficit disorder and parents who have suffered the loss of a child.

Baby Bag Online

URL: http://www.babybag.com

Chat Rooms: No

Bulletin Boards: Yes

Newsletter: No

Q&A With Experts: Yes

Personalization: No

Members-Only Privileges: No

User Polls: No

Keyword Search: Yes

Articles: Yes

Age Categories: No

Free E-Mail: No

Shopping: Yes

Primary Audience: Parents of children age 0-preschool

Not as well-trafficked as other sites yet offers a helpful selection of tips and resources for parents, particularly in the areas of health and safety. Cook's Corner includes a section on money-saving baby food recipes.

Highlight: "Songs and Fingerplays." Parents can brush up on lyrics to songs they can't remember from their own childhood.

BabyCenter

URL: http://www.babycenter.com

Chat Rooms: Yes

Bulletin Boards: Yes

Newsletter: Yes

Q&A With Experts: Yes

Personalization: Yes

Members-Only Privileges: Yes

User Polls: Yes

Keyword Search Feature: Yes

Articles: Yes

Age Categories: Yes

Free E-Mail: No

Shopping: Yes

Primary Audience: Parents of children age 0-1

Focuses on pregnancy through the first year. Selected by Business Week as one of the top five Web sites to watch in 1998. Offers members-only features such as a personal page filled with news, checklists and links tailored to the age of your baby or to your stage of pregnancy.

Highlight: A special area for Dad, featuring fathers-only articles ("Tips Every Labor Coach Could Use," "Sex After Baby"), plus animated step-by-step instructions on topics like diapering. Sexist but tongue-in-cheek is the "Sports Conflict Catcher," a guide to sporting events Dad might miss based on the baby's due date.

Babyonline

URL: http://www.babyonline.com

Chat Rooms: Yes

Bulletin Boards: Yes

Newsletter: Yes

Q&A With Experts: Yes

Personalization: No

Members-Only Privileges: Yes

User Polls: No

Keyword Search: Yes

Articles: Yes

Age Categories: No

Free E-Mail: No

Shopping: Pending

Primary Audience: Parents of children age 0-toddler

Presents users the option of joining as members or browsing as visitors. Among the benefits of membership: Q&A sessions with medical experts who answer questions by personalized e-mail within 24 hours. But read the small print: By joining, members automatically consent to allow the site's sponsors to e-mail them with promotions.

Highlight: "Growler Dog," the site's consumer watchdog, which tracks such topics as product safety and recalls.

BabyZone

URL: http://www.babyzone.com

Chat Rooms: Yes

Bulletin Boards: Yes

Newsletter: Yes

Q&A With Experts: Yes (but limited to one expert)

Personalization: No

Members-Only Privileges: No

User Polls: No

Keyword Search: Yes

Articles: Yes

Age Categories: No

Free E-Mail: No

Shopping: Yes

Primary Audience: Parents of children age 0-1

Offers a spectrum of features, such as a monthly baby photo contest, pregnancy due date calculators and calendars, and a free Web page to show off your wee one to Grandma and Grandpa. Contains a separate area for fathers.

Highlight: "Free Stuff," one-stop shopping for a roster of vendors offering coupons, samples, free subscriptions and gifts.

Canadian Parents Online

URL: http://www.canadianparents.com

Chat Rooms: Yes

Bulletin Boards: Yes

Newsletter: Yes

Q&A With Experts: Yes

Personalization: No

Members-Only Privileges: Yes

User Polls: Pending

Keyword Search: No

Articles: Yes

Age Categories: Yes

Free E-Mail: No

Shopping: Yes

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