A virtual identity card to protect children from paedophiles on the Internet went on sale yesterday.

The device is a secure electronic identity card that displays only your first name, age, gender, and general location and is used to verify who you are chatting with online.

The idea is that Net-ID-me members always swap Net-IDs with new online friends before they start chatting. This means that they know someone’s age, gender, and general location before deciding whether to chat with them or not.

To combat anyone getting the card, which costs £9.99, children will have to have a parent or guardian's consent, and their details must be confirmed by a professional person such as a teacher, doctor or lawyer before they can become a member. Once signed up they are then sent the card to use whenever they are online.

Alex Hewitt developed the system with his daughter after he found that she had 150 people on her Instant Messenger “buddy list” but knew the identities of fewer than 50.

He said: “The Internet is a wonderful resource and I want (children) to use it safely. This ID card removes anonymity, which is the main problem of the Internet”.