Filters aren't the only answer
The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires libraries and schools to install filters on their Internet computers to retain federal funding and discounts for computers and computer access. These filters do a good job blocking pornography, but they can also over-block informational sites on health and political issues. Filters may be mandatory, but they’re not the only way to keep kids safe online.
Today’s parents didn’t grow up with Facebook. They need help figuring out how to guide their kids through the new minefields of social media. Librarians can help with classes or handouts for parents that expand their understanding of these new technologies. It can be as simple as pointing out best practices for privacy settings. Once parents know the risks and benefits of online activities, they can make the best decisions for their families.
While kids today may be digital natives, they’re still naive. It’s important to remember they need practice and guidance evaluating websites. Librarians are able to point them to better online sources of information (i.e. not Wikipedia). We can also help inform their use of privacy settings for Facebook and Twitter. The Wayback Machine is a great way to show them that there is no way to permanently delete pictures or posts off the Internet.
Most libraries have to use filters to get federal funding, but filters are not perfect. We should not rely on them as our only line of defense. Educating families about their options and showing them how to use available tools is a better way to ensure kids stay safe online.
Contact the Tennessee Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee (current co-chairs are Karyn Storts-Brink and Kristen West). They’re in contact with the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee and can help with additional resources and moral support.
Wendy Cornelisen is Special Projects Coordinator at the Tennessee State Library & Archives.