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Internet Safety


Internet: Source of Promise or Concern?

Picture this scenario: A person stands in the middle of Central Park and hands out pornographic material to anyone who wanders by, including children. If this actually happened, not only would passersby alert the police, they would probably intervene themselves to put a stop to it.

Yet this scenario exists right now on the Internet. Sexually explicit material can easily find its way onto your children's computer screens -- even when they are not actively seeking it out. According to a survey conducted by the National Academies, one in four children reported at least one unwanted exposure to sexually explicit pictures during the past year, and one out of five reported receiving a sexual solicitation.

"Child pornography is a major concern of ours," said Christopher Kerr president of FamilyAccessOnline.com, a family-oriented Internet service provider. "State and federal laws prohibit people from handing children pornography, and all but seven states prohibit the possession of child pornography. Why should it be any different in cyberspace? Where do we draw the line between reality and the Internet?" The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was set to go into effect in April 2001, but didn't due to intervention from the ACLU and the American Library Association.

A National Academies report suggests that there is no single approach -- technical, legal, or educational -- that will be effective for protecting our children from inappropriate sites or solicitations. And, cutting off Internet access altogether is not a viable option. A powerful and valuable tool, the Internet has the potential to enhance education and provide recreational outlets for children.

While technologies such as filters can be helpful, they are not sophisticated enough to sort through the growing diversity of channels that may expose children to inappropriate content. Filters often prevent people from reaching worthwhile sites, and don't block out many objectionable ones, particularly those with violent images. Most of these filter options focus on blocking visual images while overlooking written portions of Web pages.
Courtesy of ARA Content


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