To Filter or Not to Filter:
The Role of Public Librarians in Determining Internet Access
Librarian's Role
Children and Harm
Legal Issues
Library Solutions
Links to free speech, filter and porn sites


Over the course of many centuries, the concept of and belief about childhood have changed, as Walter Kendrick outlined in his book, The Secret Museum. In addition, each generation seems to define "harm" differently.

In western bourgeois society in the 19th century, a new view of the child emerged, and educators and social reformers stressed two things, according to Catherine Ross, professor of law at George Washington Law School:

  1. the need to prolong children's innocence as long as possible
  2. the importance of teaching children Puritan values, such as self denial

"Today, most observers attribute numerous vulnerabilities to children, including inexperience, lack of education, lack of judgment and mature intelligence," Ross wrote. She also stated that a more negative way to view these vulnerabilities is to see children as naive, foolish and irresponsible.

The concept of "harmful" also has changed over time. Examples of what society has deemed harmful over the past 150 years include:

However, Plato and Aristotle shared a common belief that most contemporary commentators ignore:

If certain portrayals can arouse the urge to imitate life, then to some degree, all portrayals must possess this same capability.

Aristotle went so far as to say that even music can bring about a "release of emotion," but he never clarified what he meant by that statement.

If pornography is treated differently, hopeless confusion would result, according to Kendrick.

Contemporary author Solveig Singleton, director of information studies at the Cato Institute, argued that images can "invoke powerful thoughts, impulses, and feelings in others...(but) there is no reason to view sexual imagery as being any more powerful than any other kind of imagery."


To Filter or Not to Filter: The Role of Public Librarians in Determining Internet Access
Copyright (C) 1999 by Barbara H. Smith, University of Florida

All rights reserved. No portion of this document may be reproduced without the written consent of the author.

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