05/01/1995 at 01:00 AM EDT
Still steaming over your spouse's failure to remember your birthday? Well, pop the CD-ROM version of the megaselling book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus into your computer and discover how to survive the age-old battle between men and women. Not only is the entire text of the book included but after completing a "personal workshop questionnaire" ("When you express your anger or frustration...does he tend to minimize your feelings?" etc.), peppy-preachy author John Gray appears onscreen. He suggests areas of communication that need work. A couple named Megan and Michael act out familiar scenarios like "Tough Day at Work." Clicking on a TV-set icon opens clips from B movies and TV shows that also illustrate these points. Throughout, Mars underlines its main theme: Women need to feel that they are heard; men need to feel appreciated. (HarperCollins, PC & MAC, $49.95)
Given all the talk about cybersex, a lot of parents are looking for safe places for youngsters to play online. Both America Online and Prodigy offer special areas for kids with parental control features, much like the ones on cable TV to keep children out of X-rated parts of cyberspace. On CompuServe, parents can message offending bulletin boards to lock out their children.
Kids Only on AOL, with its super graphics, offers such delights as Disney Adventures magazine, online games, a competitive trivia test and pictures of favorite authors like R.L. Stine (the Goosebumps guy). The "Kids Only" bulletin board lets youngsters talk about their favorite subjects: POGs, the Cartoon Network and Home Improvement star Jonathan Taylor Thomas (sample comment: "He's pretty hot!" ).
The graphics for Prodigy's Just Kids are less sophisticated and the onscreen ads are distracting. But there's a stellar lineup at the Sesame Street site: Bert, Ernie, the Count and Big Bird entertain and teach letters and counting. An online version of the popular Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? strengthens geography muscles. CompuServe, the most data-packed—and soberest—of the services, is not as kid-friendly. There are children's areas, but youngsters have to browse through adult sites looking for places to play. CompuServe's educational resources, such as Academic American Encyclopedia, may be great for homework help, but kids who just want to have fun should probably look elsewhere.