Protecting Children

The Internet has evolved as an open medium where people all over the world can share ideas and information. Unfortunately, the same environment has led some users to take advantage of their free speech with a malicious intent.

Because many U.S. citizens are adamant about protecting children and just as passionatly value their free speech, the following options to Internet censorship should be given serious consideration:

One suggestion is the Platform for Internet Content Selection (PICS). This is a voluntary solution to content labeling. PICS provides conventions for label format and software distribution methods, but does not dictate a rating system. It is left up to the author what the page will be rated. Using PICS as a standard, other labeling services could be developed.

SafeSurf is one of these services. It is a parent's organization which lets a site rate itself based upon content. The SafeSurf browser then only allows access to those cites with a good rating. This alternative seems to give the page author control over the censorship of is page.

The best answers to protecting children fall under vigilant parenting and protective software packages and development. There are many software programs that block access to sites with sexually explicit or offensive content. These are usually programmed by parents to suit the family's individual needs and levels. Some programs keep a log so parents can keep up with what their children are viewing. Some come with certain words, picture categories or newsgroups already blocked. Others let the user create his own list of indecent material.

Net Nanny, SurfWatch, Cyber Patrol, and CYBERsitter are some filtering software packages which can be programmed by parents. These do not rely on a rating system, instead they usually automatically block access to well-known sites dedicated to questionable material. They also allow parents to add to the list of blocked sites, giving the parent more control.

These programs are not foolproof. Undoubtedly, the best solution to this problem is parental guidance and discussing the issue.