Local News

Cumberland County Parents Check Out Library's Internet Procedures

Posted June 14, 1999

— The Internet has opened up a whole new world, but not every site on the Web is appropriate for children. People in Cumberland County are trying to figure out how a public library can protect young minds without limiting them.

TheCumberland County Library Systemhas been faced with several issues lately regarding children's access to adult materials. Parents are concerned -- not just about access to books, but also to Web sites.

With the click of a mouse, the possibilities are endless. And that's the problem, some parents say. They believe Internet access should be restricted in the Cumberland County libraries so children cannot access pornographic or other adult materials.

They would like filters placed on the computers in the children's area, but Library Director Jerry Thrasher believes filters are not the answer.

"I think there are legal problems, and then it's not foolproof," Thrasher says. "It does eliminate protected sites and protected speech. We think monitoring the computers by library staff, and theprocedureswe have in place are adequate," Thrasher says.

Other library systems nationwide have already faced lawsuits.

"The information shows we need to be very careful and not jump into something that could lead us into litigation," Thrasher says.

Some parents feel that concern is misplaced. "I think when it comes to children, that shouldn't be an issue," says Ricky Marlowe. "Kids' First Amendment rights are based on what the parents think is most appropriate for their child, not what the child thinks is appropriate, because they are in a learning stage."

The library has already taken steps to monitor Internet use, and more technical plans are in the works.

Right now, parents must sign in their children. When they log on, a warning to parents pops up, as does a list of sites appropriate for children.

The library staff also keeps a close eye on the monitors, but as the warning on the screen says, there is no guarantee. That's why Donya Elliot also supports using filters.

"After they put the filter in, my child can only go to a certain level," Elliot says. "I'll do the rest."

The library board will discuss Internet access and using filters at their next meeting Thursday.


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