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Internet Access

As information moves into digital formats, library media specialists are confronted with new issues, including how to:
bulletProvide access to appropriate content and deal with content that may be controversial or inappropriate.  Traditional library media selection practices are not feasible.
bulletDeal with a media that is constantly changing -- thousands of new sites appear daily. 
bulletProtect users -- the US can not regulate or police an international media.

In fall of 2000, the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was passed (as an amendment to a major budget appropriations bill).  A copy of the bill can be found at the Center for Democracy and Technology, and details on the bill are found at the DPI website.  CIPA places controls on Internet access in schools and libraries.  Major points of the bill include:

bulletEducation institutions receiving Title III technology funds for the purchase of computers or to pay costs associated with Internet access must install and use technology to block or filter access to material is obscene, child pornography or material that is harmful to minors. Education institutions that do not comply will lose their Title III funding.
bulletSchools and libraries receiving E-Rate funds must select and use technology that blocks access by minors to obscenity, child pornography, and "any other material that the school or library determines to be inappropriate for minors.
bulletSchools and libraries receiving E-Rate funds must monitor online activities of minors by either supervisory or technological means.
bulletSchools and libraries must implement use policies that address Internet access to matter inappropriate for minors; in addition, they must hold at least one public community meeting on the plan. (This is true even for independent schools!)
bulletSchools will indicate compliance through self-certification.
bulletAn administrator, supervisor, or other authority is allowed to disable the filter for "bona fide" research or other lawful purposes.
bulletThe filter mandate goes into effect 120 days after passage (about April 2001). Schools and libraries may be able to certify in the first year that they are in the process of implementing the necessary technology protection measures.

Many, including the ALA, are concerned about the provisions of this law and its constitutionality.  For the purpose of this Web page -- discussion will be limited to compliance with CIPA.

While schools should develop strong acceptable use policies that address the needs and concerns of their communities, it is worthwhile to consider acceptable use policies from other districts.

Filtering programs can limit access to specific Web sties, allow access to specified sites, or block anything (coming or going) that contains certain words.  Many different products are available.  Reviews are available from Internet Product Watch on filtering programs and firewalls and from CNet on online filtering products.

ALA's Libraries and the Internet Toolkit: Tips and Guidance for Managing and Communicating about the Internet provides ideas for schools as they develop district guidelines on Internet use includes the following additional methods of maintaining access to appropriate Internet resources:

bulletA strong public relations campaign to promote Internet use.
bulletUser education for both students and their parents to proactively answer their questions.
bulletPrivacy screens & desks that may interfere with groupwork but support privacy.
bulletProviding stand-up access only to discourage long use.
bulletSetting time limits or requiring sign-ups.
bulletPositioning computers so the screens can be seen by the librarian.

For more information and resources for issues dealing with Internet access, please see the Internet access links on my resource page.

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