ISP Review - Safe Surfing (Parents & Children)

Brief look at safer surfing for you and your children

Safe Surfing (Parents & Children)
By Ross Fleming : February 14th - 2002 : Page 1 of 2

"we often find ourselves feeling violated by the language and content of sites"


We take a brief look at the options available on safe surfing for you and, more importantly, your children.

While researching material for these articles each week on the Internet, we often find ourselves feeling violated by the language and content of sites that appear in the middle of perfectly innocent searches. It's bad enough for adults, but it could also happen to children doing the same searches for their homework. The problem seems to be getting more pervasive as the Net expands to tens of millions of sites. Even the advertising banner on otherwise harmless pages is sometimes of questionable propriety. What, if anything, can we do about it?

Well, we all DO have the option of simply pulling the plug. But that means we have to give up our online vacation maps and instant news and stock quotes and all the great material for homework. Shut off the opportunity for exploring and collaborating and you cut yourself and your children off from some of the richest educational and entertainment resources available. In the virtual world that is emerging, we need to be able to tap this wealth, but not at the expense of exposing ourselves to a steady barrage of offensive language, images and come-ons.

Perhaps the public library is a good model of what might be more effective. There is a wide variety of material, but it is categorised. We trust that when we go to the shelves marked for computer books that we'll find just those and not books with mature themes. The same is true in bookstores. The children's section in Waterstone's Books is as advertised, and it's safe to let your kids read there. The common denominator is that a librarian or bookseller is moderating the experience. Imagine the chaos you'd have if authors could walk in and place their books anywhere they felt like. You'd have no idea what you'd come upon next.

We see a trend developing on the Internet to put the same type of organisational structure in place. The Internet community has always prided itself on personal responsibility and self-policing rather than stifling bureaucracy or the rule of government law. In addition to robots that simply index anything and everything out there, directories are emerging that are reviewed and controlled by editors who guarantee to have the type of content they promote.

Yahoo is the oldest and largest human compiled directory, but it also displays millions of uncategorized web pages. They have a special area for children called Yahooligans. About.com, formerly The Mining Company, has 700 different categories, each moderated by a volunteer editor interested in that particular topic. You can suggest additions to the site, but it is strictly the editor's choice of what gets offered.


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