Simply owning a computer won't hurt the smallest babe, but spending unlimited hours on it, surfing unsupervised, or e-meeting strangers might. "When you type in 'Cinderella,' it's not always Disney that's going to come up," points out Dr. Vander Ploeg Booth. Whether your kid is 6 or 16, before you buy, be sure you have the time to oversee her use -- something a good set of parental controls can help you with.
Disney Netpal, by ASUS: Kids get a neat, customizable Disney desktop and browser; parents get complete control over the computer. In order for any program to be used, any website to be visited, any address to be e-mailed, the administrator (i.e., Mom or Dad) has to white-list it. The whole experience looks so cool that young kids are unlikely to be deterred by parental censorship. $350, Ages 5 to 12
HP Mini 210: A triple-divided home page makes navigation super simple, allowing easy access to your three basic computing food groups: web, e-mail, and media. $280, Ages 10 and up
Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3: Pleasantly lightweight, with the kind of funky cover pattern that makes tweens squeal with delight. A "quick start" feature allows access to files, pics, and games without having to wait through that boring boot-up. Multiple users can log in with face-recognition software. $359, Ages 8 and up
Toshiba NB 300: This grown-up-looking netbook makes parental snooping a cinch. Toshiba's Reel Time software gives you a history of every website and file your kid has been peeking at. $400, Ages 8 and up