Local News

Parental Involvement Important When Filtering the Web

Posted March 2, 1998

— Young minds are curious and young people often try to get around safeguards. Right now, there's no way to absolutely keep pornography and other bad content away from kids if they want to get to it. Software is available to help, but as WRAL OnLine reporter Tom Lawrence explains, parental involvement is more effective when it comes to "Filtering The Web."

Parents worry about how their children are using the Internet. Is it to learn or are they being bombarded by X-rated pictures and language?

As far as Terry Williams knows, her sons haven't surfed inappropriate sites on the "Net, but she remains concerned."I hate to see that everybody has such access to that type of environment."Williams' 15-year-old son Jim surfs the Internet for information and enjoys chat rooms. With the death of the Communications Decency Act some lawmakers and parents want Internet filtering software like Surf Watch,Net Nannyand others put on computers in schools, libraries and in homes.

Anand Shimpi, a 15-year old student, manages his ownpopular web site. We loaded Surf Watch and Net Nanny on his computer. Filters screen the content of web sites, chat rooms, newsgroups and e-mail. Some are built into browsers, others are available on the Internet or in stores.

Shimpi says filters may work for younger children who don't know much about computers."Things like this will be very helpful because sometimes you'll be doing a research report or something like that and you'll come up with things you really aren't looking for. (Are these filters, these things hard to get around?) They're pretty much effective for the home user, a person that knows how to point and click and that's pretty much it. Now, if a person knows what that pointing and clicking does, then they're not as effective."Anand disabled Surf Watch but says that's not particularly easy. Most of the popular filters block based on a built in database of sites and key words. Shimpi says if you don't update them regularly from the Internet, they won't block sites you're trying to avoid."I would say at least update your database once a week to get the latest definitions for sites and things you should avoid."Jim Williams operates an internet access company. He urges use of filters and parental responsibility."I make sure I tell my kids 'here is how I expect you to act with this and if I find out differently, then we'll take that away, this tool.' And I consider the Internet as a great tool for kids."With Surf Watch loaded I did a simple search for the term "Surf Watch" and up came dozens of adult sites which claim to be blocked by Surf Watch and other filters. Several x-rated images came up before Surf Watch stopped them.

Technology Consultant Jamieson McKenzie, says don't count on filters to give complete protection, particularly around inquisitive youngsters."What happens when you put those filters on is you actually increase the motivation of adolescents to break the system."Filtering is considered censorship by some. Adult sites make big money and will likely always be found in cyberspace. "Do you know where your kids are?" That's a question of growing importance even when they are at home.


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