See Dick and Jane Run . . . the Computer

Ah, youth.

Taking to the open roads on a yellow banana skateboard. Spending an entire week's allowance on Garbage Pail Kids trading cards. Downloading nudie pictures from the Internet.

Yes, times have changed. And parents seem to have a lot more things to worry about--like who their kids are meeting in chat rooms and whether their classrooms are connected to the Internet.

Here is a list of some books (there aren't as many as you would imagine) that will help parents and kids more safely and efficiently move into the technology age.

TECH GIRL'S INTERNET ADVENTURES by technology firm Girl Tech (IDG Books Worldwide, $19.99; CD-ROM).

This is not your typical tech book: It's not for adults, it's not for men and it's fun. "Tech Girl's Internet Adventures" encourages girls to be curious, creative, adventurous, artistic and smart. It's very pro-girl, but not cloyingly so.

Tech Girl takes readers on a tour of the World Wide Web, stopping at interesting sites and offering various project ideas along the way. Tech Girl shares her knowledge of e-mail, Net browsers and search engines in language that young girls (and boys) will find easy to understand but not condescending. There are also short bios of girls and women with a presence online.

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THE WORLD WIDE WEB FOR KIDS & PARENTS by Viraf D. Mohta

GREAT SOFTWARE FOR KIDS & PARENTS by Cathy Miranker and Alison Elliot

TAKECHARGE COMPUTING FOR TEENS & PARENTS by Pam Dixon (IDG Books Worldwide, $24.99 each).

This series of Internet books is from the Dummies gang, although they've probably changed the names so as not to do irreparable damage to the self-esteem of your tykes (can't go around calling the young ones dummies nowadays). And, true to Dummies form, the books are comprehensive, easy to understand and well-organized.

Some highlights: "The World Wide Web," though not a site review book, explains the Internet and all of its parts--the Web, newsgroups, chat, e-mail, gopher--as well as software (including Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer) and building a home page.

"Great Software" breaks down by age various art, writing and math programs as well as popular games. "TakeCharge Computing" enlists teens to take charge of math, science, foreign languages, literature, social studies, art and music. There's also lots of information about having fun, getting ready for college boards and finding, choosing and applying for colleges. There's even a chapter on finding a job and planning a career.

And, in all the books, don't skip the chapters that have the top 10 lists: Topics include parental concerns, must-have software and safety precautions.

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CYBERSURFER by Nyla Ahmad (Owl Books, $19.95, CD-ROM).

Colorful pictures and text bring "Cybersurfer," a guide for kids getting ready to surf the Net, to life. There's a very abbreviated directory of sites at the back, definitely not worth the price of the book--if that's all you're looking for. But "Cybersurfer" shines in other areas: netiquette, emoticons, safety, cyberstories, flaming, online pranks, cyber slang.

It's written for kids, without being condescending or bogged down by hip jive. At a scant 72 pages, it's great to look at, fun to read and full of good information and instruction.

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CHILDREN AND THE INTERNET: A Zen Guide for Parents & Educators by Brendan Kehoe and Victoria Mixon (Prentice Hall, $24.95; CD-ROM).

A must-have for parents whose kids spend time online. "Children and the Internet" addresses safety issues in more depth than most of the other books. It covers the parental controls the online services offer, discusses the various efforts underway to study kids and the Internet, and offers information about filtering software. There is also a chapter on what some schools are doing to integrate technology into the curriculum and a complete glossary of terms so parents can know what in the heck their kids are saying.

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THE INTERNET KIDS YELLOW PAGES by Jean Armour Polly (Osborne McGraw-Hill, $29.95).

An argument could be made for using search engines in lieu of buying a book that might be outdated by the time it hits the shelves. But "The Internet Kids Yellow Pages" does two things search engines don't: It gives you summaries of the sites so your kids will really know where they're going, and it's also a place for you and your kids to begin a dialogue about what's out there.

Besides, they list some cool sites. Topics include books and literature, science, music, sports, health, culture, television and movies, animals, history, and rights and freedoms.

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ONLINE KIDS: A Young Surfer's Guide to Cyberspace by Preston Gralla (John Wiley & Sons, $14.95)

Similar to the "Kids Yellow Pages" but not as comprehensive. "Online Kids" is mostly educational sites, with some sports and crafts thrown in. Enterprising youngsters might like some of the activities (publishing their stories online or taking a virtual tour of our nation's capital, to name two), but you'll have a hard time convincing them it's not just another form of homework.

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INTERNET HOMEWORK HELPER by Tim McLain, Gregory Giagnocavo and Dorissa Bolinski (Prentice Hall, $29.95; CD-ROM).

It's written for 3-year-olds! But, wow, it's for teenagers! Imagine that! Yikes! And there's nothing your average 16-year-old identifies with more than perkiness! Oops! As for making homework more fun?!? Don't think so!

OK, OK, enough. "The Internet Homework Helper," with its cutesy cartoons about making learning fun, exclamation marks and painful attempts at using slang, is so bad it's almost camp. We'll leave it at that.

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NET LESSONS: Web-Based Projects for Your Classroom by Laura Parker Roerden (O'Reilly, $24.95; CD-ROM).

NETLEARNING: Why Teachers Use the Internet by Ferdi Serim and Melissa Koch (O'Reilly, $24.95; CD-ROM)

Though both books really are written for teachers, they deserve a mention. "Net Lessons" provides some interesting projects (long- and short-term) for teachers interested in injecting technology into their classrooms. "NetLearning" gives teachers an idea of what educators around the country are doing to get their students wired. Both books are good investments for teachers investing in their--and their students'--futures.

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Krissy Harris can be reached via e-mail at haringbat@aol.com

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