Startup Spotlight: Tots get wired with

The walled wide Web for is the UK's first kids-only Internet service provider (ISP), offering a Web site exclusively targeted at children aged between seven and twelve.

The site offers a protected online environment where children can send emails, chat, enter competitions, play games and research homework assignments. There are also links to 100,000 external Web sites that have been personally vetted to ensure that their content is entirely safe for children. In the past month a host of children's charities have rallied against child-facing Internet chatrooms for the adult-rated subject matter that they contain. Atkidz addresses these concerns by initially filtering all of its content through a software programme that detects all swear words and sexual terms -- the ISP also employs a human moderator to check each message in real time. "We feel we're doing too much in some ways, but we can't compromise the children's safety," says Paul Currie, chief executive of The site has a policy that no names or ages can be given in chatroom conversations meaning that children must communicate under a nickname. Currie acknowledges that this prevents their audience from making pen-pals online, but has found the nicknames, and the presence of a moderator, do not deter children from using the chat service. "Our moderator has in fact become a bit of a cult figure with our kids," he says. The colourful Flash-based site is very attractive to both the adult and younger eye, but could be simpler on the navigation front. Atkidz is also experiencing a few Netscape teething problems -- for instance, this reviewer could not use Netscape to register -- but Internet Explorer encountered no problems. The service:
What it does: Offers a safe environment for children to surf
Who it's for:Ages 7-12
The verdict: A responsible move towards making the Web safer for kids Startup Spotlight brings you the best and worst new Web sites every week. Click here to see previous Spotlights. See techTrader for the latest technology investment news, plus quotes and research. Have your say instantly, and see what others have said. Click on the TalkBack button and go to the ZDNet News forum. Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read other letters.