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Pointers for Parents:
Children and the Internet

"Surfing the Net", "Connecting to the Web", "Checking out a Site", and "Talking on Chat Lines" may be terms that you have heard recently while watching television, reading a newspaper, or listening to the radio. These phrases are used when talking about the Internet and the World Wide Web. Children are learning about these resources from their friends, in school, and at the public library. Conflicting reports about the Internet and its resources have caused confusion and fear, as well as excitement and unlimited possibilities.

What Parents Should Know
What Parents Can Do
Internet Access at CLP
Guidelines for Parents

What Parents Should Know

The Internet is a global network of information accessible with a computer. Not only is the information presented with words, but it also may be accompanied with pictures, sound, and short video clips. There are literally thousands of "sites" with educational and recreational information. These sites are "linked" with other related sites to create a "web" (like a spider web) of topics that provide all kinds of information known as the World Wide Web. Almost anything you want to know about can be found somewhere on the Internet. People are free to put any information on the Internet without identifying themselves.

Also on the Internet are "chat lines" or "talk rooms" that allow people to have "computer conversations" on a variety of topics. People write messages which are sent and displayed on the computer screen. Anyone can participate in discussions that range from football to the latest archaeological find in Egypt.

The Internet and the World Wide Web are not regulated and that opens the door to some risks. Some information may not be accurate or appropriate for children and teens. And, because the computer allows for anonymity, websites may be rude, obnoxious and even sexually exploitative.

Does this mean that you shouldn't allow your child to use the Internet? Of course not, it simply means that you should be alert and aware of the information on the Internet.

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What Parents Can Do

  • Talk to your child
  • Set rules together
  • Keep aware of computer services offered
  • Visit the library with your child

    "Surfing the Net" can be an exciting family experience. The opportunities to expand one's horizons are great. Make the most of them by sharing the experience with your child.

    If you need assistance, ask the librarian. Staff are knowledgeable and available to help you.

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    Internet Access at CLP

    Computers in public libraries, the Internet, and the World Wide Web are here to stay. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh provides these resources, free of cost, to residents of Allegheny County. We consider it our responsibility to be a leader in providing information, though we are aware that some of the information provided will be considered inappropriate for children.

    Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh offers Internet access, free of charge, to any person, regardless of age, who uses our facilities.The Main Library and Branch Libraries have computers in public areas for you or your child to use to look at websites of your choice. This means, quite possibly, that your child may choose or select and be exposed to information, words and pictures, that you would rather he or she didn't see.

    Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh encourages parents to guide their children's Internet experiences, in the same manner as they guide children's television viewing and reading material. We want you to have a positive experience in our facilities and one way to insure this is to accompany your child to the library. While we know that this is not always possible, you should be aware that our staff cannot control or censor any patron's Internet sessions. This does not mean that we don't want your child to visit the library. We can help your child find information, and our computers access not only the Internet but also the On-Line Public Access Catalog. As a parent you need to be made aware of the possibility that your child may choose and select, or see and read materials that you could find offensive. Also be aware that any person accessing or viewing inappropriate sites will be asked to close that site and select a more appropriate one.

    Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has developed a "KidsPage," a screen on the computer to guide children and parents to appropriate educational and recreational sites. As a parent, you can use this "page" to guide your child's Internet sessions. Every effort is made to insure that the selected sites are age and interest appropriate.

    Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh does use a "filtering" device to limit children's exposure to some websites. There are basically two kinds of devices that limit the sites that can be visited. One type blocks particular sites from viewing. The second device blocks sites by words. For example, we could block the word "breast," but by doing so we would eliminate information about breast cancer and healthy low-fat recipes for chicken. We try to block particular sites that could be offensive to some of our users. Please be aware, however, that filtering devices are available only on machines designated for children's use and may not block all material you find offensive.

    Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh believes in open access to information and is dedicated to being a force for education, information, recreation and inspiration in the communities it serves. The Internet resources available help us to help you find the information you want and need. But, because the Internet is not regulated and not monitored, we are placed in an awkward position. We continue to rely on you as a parent to insure that your child has a positive, beneficial, and fun experience at the library.

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    Guidelines for Parents

    • The best way to assure that your child is having a positive experience is to be aware of the kinds of information found on the Internet and to stay in touch with what your children are doing. It is important that you as a parent assume responsibility for your child's computer use, at home, at school, or in the public library.

    • Explore the wide range of information that is available and talk with your child about topics you consider off- limits.

    • In much the same way you supervise your child's television viewing, watch the amount of time your child spends with the computer. The same parenting skills that apply in the real world also apply in the computer world.

    • If you or your child become aware of the transmission of child pornography, report it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678.

    • Stress to your child that he or she should not give out identifying information such as home address, school name or telephone number.

    • Set YOUR rules for the use of the Internet.

    1/97. Adapted with permission from The New York Public Libary's "A Safety Net for the Internet: A Parent's Guide".

    See also Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Internet Safety and Use Policy, Online Privacy Policy, and Position Paper on Internet Access to Pornography by Children in the Library

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