SCHOOLS, LIBRARIES, AND THE COMMUNITY
Parents want to feel confident that when their child is surfing away from
home, other adultsthose who care for and educate children, as well
as those who are part of the computer and Internet industry, the government,
and the general communitywill uphold safe, responsible standards
for children. As a parent, you have the right and responsibility to know
how schools, libraries, industry,
and policy-makers could handle the various issues associated
with kids on the Internet. Here are some best-practice community
strategies that can complement a parents efforts and help kids stay
safe while getting the most out of the World Wide Web.
Teachers and school officials are responsible for educating
students and providing a safe environment in which learning can occur.
In a best-practices scenario for schools:
- Internet and information technology are used to support
learning and are integrated as learning tools into the regular curriculum.
- Time is spent teaching students what it means to comply
- Enforcement of AUPs is flexible enough to allow inadvertent
violations to be considered teaching opportunities rather than automatic
occasions for punishment.
- Internet safety instruction is a prerequisite for school-provided
- Instruction in media literacy is integrated into the
curriculum at all levels as an essential dimension of scholarship and
- Selected older students serve as computer and Internet
tutors and guides for younger students.
- Teachers are offered professional development opportunities
by the school district to understand and learn how to teach the importance
of media literacy on the Internet.
- The PTA offers programs to parents or guardians who want
to know more about Internet safety, and guidance on maintaining open
communication between parents and adolescents.
A public librarys primary responsibility is to
provide a broad range of information to its entire community of children
and adults. The approaches that a library takes, therefore, to protect
children from inappropriate material and experiences might not always
be the same as a schoolseven in the same community. Parents
should be aware of their local libraries policies.
In a best-practices scenario for libraries:
- Internet safety instruction is offered to both
parents and children.
- Software is installed to clear browser
histories and caches so that a new user
cant view anything seen by a previous user.
- Libraries offer users a variety of choices regarding
filtered or unfiltered access.
- Information on a librarys filtering policy
is conspicuous and available so that users have a general idea of what
- Internet-access points inside childrens areas
ask the age of the child. Young children receive a notice that they
are getting filtered access. Older children are offered an unbiased
choice of filtered and unfiltered access (unbiased meaning that neither
one is the default).
Various types of industry can make a major contribution
to the Internet safety of children, especially those industry segments
that are relevant to the issue, such as Internet service providers, manufacturers
of computer equipment, software vendors, those who provide content, and
the adult online industry.
ISPs and online service providers could:
- Provide parental controls that are easy to understand
- Design and provide educational and child-friendly areas.
- Provide a channel for user complaints about child pornography
or obscene material, for example, a link or customer-service page or
- Refrain from hosting material that they believe
to be illegal, such as suspected child pornography
Makers of access devices (such as computers,
handheld organizers, cell phones with Web access, game machines, and WebTV)
Software vendors could:
- Develop software to help configure computers to be child-friendly
(in place of setup routines mentioned above).
- Integrate into Web browsers filtering options that
are label-based and provide tools that make it easier for content developers
to create appropriate labels. (Producers of Web material can labeldescribe
or categorize their contentin their sites metadata,
making it easier for parents to filter. Go to www.icra.org
to see the labeling system of the Internet Content Rating Association.)
- Include tips or links for childrens Internet safety
in software used by adults.
Content providers could:
- Participate in an organized labeling plan, design, or
program that can be widely adopted.
- Integrate educational and entertainment value to content
developed for children.
- Add links to age-appropriate sexual and psychological
health-related content to Web sites that are visited by older youth
so that reliable and appropriate information is available.
The adult online industry could:
- Take more effective steps to keep children from
accessing their products. For example, they could keep sexually explicit
material off of their home pages and prevent indexing of their pages.
- Stop the practice of involuntary mousetrapping.
- Use contracts to require more responsible behavior
among affiliates, or other Web business associates, who use sexually
explicit content provided by commercial sources.
Public policyat the local, state, and federal
levelscan help shape the Internet environment in many ways.
Public policy can be used to:
- Support prosecution of Internet pornographers who dont
take steps to deny children access to their products under existing
obscenity laws, rather than any law focused specifically on the Internet.
- Promote media literacy and Internet-safety education
through funding of model curricula; provide professional development
for teachers on Internet safety; and support outreach
to educate parents, teachers, librarians, and other responsible adults
on Internet-safety education issues.
- Support the development and access to high-quality Internet
material thats educational and attractive to children in an age-appropriate
- Support self-regulatory efforts by private parties. For
example, provide financial or legal incentives for ISPs or content providers
to behave responsibly.
- Support research in areas that are relevant to the issue
of Internet safety, including the impact of exposure to sexually explicit
material on children of various ages; childrens Internet-use patterns;
and the effectiveness of social and educational strategies, technological
tools, and public policy.