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Parenting the internet: resources for parents and children.

Internet use by children and adults has grown considerably over the past few years. Parents are concerned about children viewing adult content on the World Wide Web and being approached by strangers by e-mail. (This article presents general statistical findings of Internet use by children, discusses the recent Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and summarizes online child safety considerations.)

Parents will find the selective bibliography of online and print resources helpful as they implement family online safety guidelines.

Internet Use by Children

Grunwald Associates, a marketing research and consulting firm, announced in June of 2000 that Internet use by children aged 2 to 17 has tripled since 1997. Twenty-five million children regularly accessed the Internet in 2000, compared with eight million in 1997. Projections indicate that by the year 2005 Internet use by children will increase by 70 percent. Grunwald's survey results suggest that Internet use by children has increased exponentially because online activities by mothers have grown from 4.5 million in 1997 to 16.4 million in 2000 (Wong, 2000).

Parent survey comments indicate children's educational needs are the primary consideration when purchasing a family computer (Wong, 2000). With this in mind, librarians have a unique opportunity to suggest appropriate reputable Internet sites and offer online safety considerations to enhance student identification and utilization of authoritative Internet educational resources.

During a February 2001 presentation titled "Parenting the Internet: Net Savvy Mothers," parents living in a suburban community in Ohio were asked how their family used Internet resources. Most regularly used e-mail, visited specific sites, made travel arrangements, performed basic searching and occasionally participated in chat rooms. Interestingly, many parents were unaware that local library catalogs and electronic databases were accessible from home. They were not familiar with online research sources such as databases, almanacs and encyclopedias.

Ohio library users are fortunate to have access to the Online Public Library Information Network (OPLIN) ( In addition to electronic research databases and other thematic web resources, OPLIN users can access their local library catalog off-site by entering their library card number to authenticate use. INFOhio, (, the information network for schools, also provides basic research databases with home and school access. These resources are available free to every school in Ohio and are particularly valuable to provide a basic level of online information resources for all schools regardless of financial resources.

According to a Jupiter Consumer Survey in July of 2000, 61 percent of children aged 5-12 and 95 percent of teenagers aged 13-17 use e-mail. For homework and/or school research, online resources are used by 55 percent of children aged 5-12 and 68 percent of children aged 13-17 (Information Please, 2001). Since more than half of the children in both age groups are using the Internet for research, teacher-librarians have a wonderful opportunity to partner with parents to promote safe and effective information literacy skills and safe exploration of this valuable resource.

Safety on the Internet

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was signed into law on October 21, 1998, and subsequently effective on April 21, 2000. COPPA was designed to protect the online privacy of children under the age of 13. Accordingly, commercial web sites must obtain parental permission to collect, use or disclose personal information from children under age 13. Privacy policies must be posted on web sites whenever personal information is requested, and the policy must include the kind of personal information collected, its intended use and whether it will be distributed to other parties. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is responsible for monitoring and enforcing COPPA and has developed guidelines to determine if operators of a commercial web site are targeting their content or advertising, for example, to children under age 13 (, 2001).

One of the major concerns about COPPA by operators of commercial web sites is the necessary increase in staff time verifying parental consent. Consent via e-mail is generally not acceptable, and the paperwork generated by having to use snail mail to obtain consent has caused some sites to eliminate web features or close down permanently (Wolinsky, 2000). For educational purposes, school and non-profit sites are exempt from COPPA and may allow children to participate in third-party commercial experiences or provide personal information to web sites if parental permission forms are collected prior to the online activity (Wolinsky, 2000).

Upon review of recent online safety sites and print publications a number of general safety suggestions retain common threads and can generally be suggested to parents:

1. Place the Internet-accessible computer in a visible, high-traffic living space in the home.

2. Develop a trusting relationship with children by establishing clear online rules and expectations.

3. Encourage children to alert an adult to sites or e-mail communications that make them feel uncomfortable. Children should not agree to meet someone in person that they have met online unless they have parental approval and the parent attends the meeting.

4. Search online with children, discussing content, web site evaluation, advertising practices, privacy policies, personal information and family rules.

5. As a family, make decisions regarding parental control features through Internet service providers or single-user software applications and access to e-mail and/or chat rooms.

Larry Magid, founder of, and Sandra Cavert, advisor to, wrote an article for Nick Jr. titled "How can I protect my family's privacy online?" They suggest that parents search and participate online with their children aged 9 and under because they are not yet able to determine a site's purpose or the author's intentions. Preteens and teens can begin to surf alone, but clear expectations should be agreed upon between parent and child. Placing the family computer in a visible area, such as a family room, allows better supervision and easier parental assistance. Youth-oriented search engines should be suggested; Yahooligans (http://www., Kids Click ( KidsClick!/) or Ask Jeeves for Kids ( are good starting points. Family decisions regarding chat rooms, filtering software, confidentiality of passwords, special personal web names, privacy policies and disclosure of personal information should be clearly discussed (Magid & Calvert, 2000). Larry Magid's site (http://www. also offers child and parent online safety pledges to be signed as reinforcement of family rules.

The Center for Media Education (CME) ( and (http://www. have jointly created "A Parent's Guide to Online Privacy" (http://www.kidsprivacy. org/tips.html). This guide recommends discussing with children the definition of personal information, for your family and reiterates the importance of not providing personal information even if the requestor seems familiar. Additional discussions concerning web site privacy policies and advertising campaigns are encouraged. The FTC posts its e-mail address and telephone number on the CME site for convenience in reporting inappropriate web sites or online activities. The American Library Association's list of "700+ great sites for kids" (http://www.ala. org/parents/) is suggested as a good site for parents and children to visit together.

GetNetWise (http://www.getnet is coordinated by the Internet Education Foundation and was created to gather together Internet resources for parents in one virtual location. This coalition of companies and non-profit organizations has created an Internet safety guide, information about products that monitor Internet use, steps for reporting online crimes and a guide to online educational content for children. Coalition members include, for example, America Online, Disney, Yahoo, Family PC Magazine, Surf Watch Software and the United States Internet Council. Balance of content is administered by a diverse advisory board including, but not limited to, the American Library Association, Cyberangels, Enough is Enough and the International Society for Technology in Education. A simplified online safety guide includes these three basic points:

* Parents should search and participate online with children and teens to analyze privacy policies.

* Web sites must request parental permission to collect personal information from children.

* Finally, parents should remember that they are in control of giving their children permission for engaging in online activities.


Filters, whether provided by an Internet Service Provider or a home-use software application, are designed to limit children's exposure to adult content, especially those deemed pornographic. Access may be restricted through a predetermined list of sites, keywords, or the software application's criteria that may or may not be available for parental review. Site updates are often available through vendor subscriptions. Typically, categories for blocking include text and/or photographs depicting adult sexual material, drugs, violence/hate, racism, gambling, tobacco, alcohol, or cruelty to animals. Parents may choose to restrict children's online access by time of day, or number of hours per week, for example (ICONN, 2001).

Parent control software is often advertised as the "best" way to keep children safe and is appealing to some parents. Unfortunately, the reality is that installing filtering software does not guarantee that children will not be exposed to adult content on the Internet. New Internet sites are posted daily, and blocking software cannot stay current 24 hours per day. Additionally, filters often block access to helpful resources, especially in the health care field. Parents should be encouraged to be active participants with their children on the Internet; filters are not appropriate babysitters (ICONN, 2001).

Many schools already use some type of blocking software. As of October 28, 2001 the United States Federal Communications Commission is requiring all schools and libraries that receive discounted Internet services to use blocking software, adopt an Internet Safety Policy and hold a public meeting discussing the policy (http://www. recognizes that a perfect system for protecting children is not possible, and this coalition of commercial and non-profit organizations has developed an Internet page to inform parents of safety options (http://www.getnet Parents can explore safety tips or find help for deciding family filtering needs by completing an online checklist of filtering functions. The site compares the checklist to an established vendor list and suggests products.

Current Resources for Children and Parents

The following is a selective annotated bibliography of recommended print and online safety resources suitable for use by parents and children. Materials were selected because of their balanced, unbiased treatment of Internet safety concerns.

Parent Resources

* Aftab, Parry. (2000). The parent's guide to protecting your children in cyberspace. New York: McGraw-Hill. Author Parry Aftab has compiled a comprehensive handbook to educate parents concerning Internet safety issues. This book is useful for the novice and experienced Internet user. As an attorney, Aftab has authoritative insight on cyber-crimes, privacy, computer viruses and personal safety issues. Parents are encouraged to develop cyber rules with their children. Internet safety rules and a sample "SafeSurfing Contract" are included.

* American Library Association Families Connect--http://www.ala. org/ICONN/familiesconnect.html Developed by the American Association of School Librarians ICONnect Task Force, Families Connect was created "for parents and children to use together." The site offers online courses, technology tips, filtering pros and cons, information literacy guidelines, "Top Ten Internet Sites for Families" and access to KidsConnect, an online reference question service for K-12 students.

* Bennett, Steven J. The plugged-in parent: What you should know about kids and computers. New York: Times Books, 1998. Aimed at the busy parent, this book provides information about purchasing computers and software as well as use of the Internet. The book is a quick read and offers common-sense advice to parents evaluating their family's use of computers. Safety considerations include discussion of "stranger danger" strategies and the establishment of clear expectations for computer use. The author suggests families adopt an A-B-C acceptability level with criteria developed and enforced by family members.

* Center for Media Education-- As a national non-profit organization, the Center for Media Education is concerned with aspects of digital and electronic media including safety issues and research that affect children, young adults, families and communities. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is described and explained in easily understood language. "Tips for Guiding Children Online" are included via a link to (

* The Children's Partnership-- The Children's Partnership is a national non-profit, non-partisan organization concerned with "identifying new trends and emerging issues that will affect large numbers of America's children." Reports, research and materials are developed to inform and educate parents, educators and others involved with children. The parents' guide to the information superhighway: Rules and tools for families online is available free online and in print for $5 from The Children's Partnership, 1352 St. Promenade, Suite 206, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Multiple copies of two or more are $2.50 each.

* Cyberangels--http://www.cyber Parry Aftab, author of The parent's guide to protecting your children in cyberspace (see above), is the executive director of Cyberangels, self-described as "the largest safety organization since 1995. The group's site provides safety information and links for parents, educators, children and teens. A "Kidsreportline" is available for children to report web sites that threaten violence. is an online community for children and teenagers, sponsored by Cyberangels. * GetNetWise--http://www.get

GetNetWise is coordinated by the Internet Education Foundation and was created to gather together Internet resources for parents into one web site. This coalition of companies and non-profit organizations provides an Internet safety guide, information about products that monitor Internet use, steps for reporting online crimes and a guide to online educational content useful to children.

* SafeKids-- Syndicated news columnist Larry Magid has created a comprehensive web site focusing on child and family online safety issues. Magid presents safety issues in an objective manner, without political motivations. His site includes discussion of online privacy issues, computer information, child-oriented sites/search engines and guidelines for online safety. The "Family Contract for Online Safety" is unique and can be printed and used immediately. Families can subscribe to an online safety newsletter as well.

* SafeSurf-- Two individuals concerned with adult material available for viewing by children, but also concerned with proposed government censorship of online resources, developed the "SafeSurf Rating Standard." To be rated, web authors complete and submit an online rating form. After a rating is assigned, sites may display the SafeSurf logo. This site has created a search engine, available on their main page, to facilitate the location of Internet sites with a SafeSurf rating.

Children's Resources

* Brimner, Larry Dane. (1997). E-mail. New York: Children's Press. Grades K-4. Brimner, Larry Dane. (1997). The World Wide Web. New York: Children's Press. Grades K-4.

E-mail and The World Wide Web provide greater detail on topics introduced in Charnan and Tom Kazunas' The Internet for kids (see below). E-mail discusses general communication practices, the parts of an e-mail message, mailing lists, netiquette and safety issues. The World Wide Web is introduced through a spider web analogy; hypertext transfer protocol is explained; and web addresses and search strategies with search engine examples are described. A review of a student-oriented search engine such as Yahooligans would have strengthened this portion of the book.

* Jefferis, David. (1999). Cyber space: Virtual reality and the World Wide Web. New York, Crabtree. Grades 5-12. In this resource, the term "cyberspace" is defined, the development of telecommunications is traced and the history and growth of the World Wide Web is explored. Although safety issues are not discussed, virtual reality as cyber-technology is thoroughly described and illustrated. Virtual reality technology offers real-life applications for medicine (surgery), space exploration without leaving the earth, digital movies and locating cyber-criminals. The glossary and index are helpful tools for student researchers, featuring a timeline of important events in telecommunications from 2000 BC to 1998. The timeline includes predictions, many already in practice today.

* Kazunas, Charnan & Kazunas, Tom. (1997). The Internet for kids. New York: Children's Press. Grades K-4. An effective introduction to the Internet for young children, this title uses simple text and colorful photographs to describe the organization of the Internet, how to connect to it and Internet addresses. Students are introduced to Internet vocabulary such as networking, domain names, uniform resource locators, e-mail and chat rooms. Children are cautioned about giving out personal information and receiving damaging computer viruses, and communication with parents is encouraged. Additional book and web sites are listed for more information. An index, a meet the authors' section and a glossary of important words enhance the design of the book.

* MacGregor, Cynthia. (1999). Staying safe at home and on-line. New York: PowerKids Press, Rosen Publishing. Grades K-4. Children are given specific scenarios and strategies to use when faced with safety decisions at home alone or online. The topics discussed include: what to do when pressured to let someone in the house, what to do if an online pen pal wants to meet you alone and whether or not to give out personal information. Parents are suggested as partners in searching for educational information online, thus encouraging an open dialog between parent and child. The full-color photographs are up-to-date and enhance the text through relevant examples. A glossary and index are included to reinforce research skills with primary students. Other titles in the series include: Listen to your instincts, Staying safe by saying no, Stranger danger, Ten steps to staying safe and What to do if you get lost.

* Mintzer, Richard. (2000). The everything kids' online book: E-mail, pen pals, live chats, home pages, family trees, homework and much more! Holbrook, Mass.: Adams Media. Grades 7-12. As part of the Everything series published by Adams Media, this book succinctly gathers entertaining and educational Internet use information suitable for children aged 7-12. Parents will also find the Internet tips useful, detailed and easy to understand. A brief history of the Internet is included as well as information on e-mail, chat rooms, designing web pages, how to evaluate web sites as "fun" or "for information" and an author-recommended annotated list of 70 web sites. The reader can easily discover more detailed information within each chapter through the "Fun facts," "Words to know," "Consider this" and "How to" short informational text inserts.

* Raatma, Lucia. (1999). Safety on the Internet. Mankato, Minn.: Bridgestone Books. Grades K-4. Internet safety topics such as e-mail, web site content, search engines, chat rooms and meeting strangers are discussed. A two-page spread is devoted to each subject; text on the right and a full-color photograph with text box descriptions on the left provide a cohesive look at many current Internet safety concerns of teachers and parents. Used as an expository text for research, students will benefit from the clear, logical flow of text as well as the "Words to Know," "Read More," and "Internet Sites" sections. An index is also included. This title may also stimulate a discussion of Internet safety when read aloud in the classroom or at home with parents.

* WiredKids--http://www.wired WiredKids is a members-only online community for children and teenagers. Members can post to message boards, read reviews of movies, articles or interviews written by peers, and chat on many different topics. To become a member, a parent consent/application form must be snail-mailed to WiredKids along with a "Letter of Good Standing" from the applicant's school on official letterhead. Wired Kids is part of

References (2001). How does Internet filtering legislation affect you? Retrieved May 18, 2001 from the World Wide Web:

ICONnect (2001). To filter or not: The pros and cons of using parental control software. Chicago: American Library Association, American Association of School Librarians ICONnect, Families Connect. Retrieved February 17, 2001 from the World Wide Web: http://www.

Information Please Almanac (2001). Top online activities by age. Retrieved May 18, 2001 from on the World Wide Web: & Center for Media Education (2001). A parent's guide to online privacy: What is COPPA? Retrieved May 18, 2001 from the World Wide Web:

Magid, L. & Calvert, S. (2000). How can I protect my family's privacy online? Retrieved February 17, 2001 from the World Wide Web: http://

Wolinsky, A. (2000). WiredKids: From safety and privacy to literacy and empowerment. Multimedia Schools, 7, 16-21.

Wong, M. (2000, June 13). Kids fuel Internet growth. [Bowling Green, OH] Sentinel Tribune, 10.

Sara Bushong is Assistant Professor and Head Librarian for the Curriculum Resource Center, Jerome Library of Bowling Green State University, Ohio. She can be reached at
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Title Annotation:school libraries
Author:Bushong, Sara
Publication:Teacher Librarian
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2002
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