Cybersmart Families

Responsible parents set parameters for their child's activities. As the child gets older, the parameters widen, starting with a crib, then a supervised room, moving all the way to the Internet. Now a child doesn't even need to step out of the house to see the world and all its wonder. The old boundaries are no longer adequate. The Net adds a whole new dimension, demanding an additional set of decisions and answers from parents.

The ultimate onus for childrens' safety and quality of life falls on the parents. Smart parents would not - even if they could - accompany their children every time they ventured outside the home, nor would they monitor every telephone call or scrutinize every television or computer screen inside the home. Similarly, cybersmart parents teach their children how to best protect themselves in an imperfect world where strangers may lurk in school yards and disturbing images may appear on the family computer.

Is the Solution Blocking Software?

Blocking programs give some parents a sense of security. These programs will prevent the computer's user from accessing adult Web sites, newsgroups, and similar sources of material.

A new genre of blocking software has recently been introduced with which rather than restricting access to undesirable sites, parents can review every site visited by a child and sift through all materials downloaded while online. This effectively frightens children into being guardians of their own morals. However we believe it also gives kids an early introduction to an Orwellian abuse of technology - no different then reading the kids' mail or listening in on phone calls.

However, not everyone agrees that free speech is harmful to people under 18 years of age. Peacefire, an organization made up of activists between 12 and 21, has been on the forefront of protecting free speech online.

It is also true that blocking software can prevent children from accessing material that is not harmful. Some sites can be blocked are the Sistine Chapel, Kids Help Phone and the kinds of Medical Information, information that can enrich, and even save a child's life.

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