TWU Professor Provides Tips for Kid-
TWU Professor Provides Tips for Kid-Safe Searches Online
DENTON These days, a simple click of a mouse can
provide children with help on a homework problem or material for
a school research paper. However, it also may provide information
that parents don't want their children to see.
While some search tools screen Internet sites for
age-appropriate material, a Texas Woman's University professor
said filters aren't always successful in keeping children from
entering inappropriate sites, and they may even deny children
access to relevant information.
The current filtering technology is flawed, because
useful information often is suppressed along with questionable
material, said Dr. Lynn Akin, assistant professor of
library science on TWU's Denton campus.
Akin said some search engines are edited by humans, while
others use software to filter sites. Some companies use a
combination of filtering technology and human reviewers. Many
sites use keyword blocking, which prevents users from gaining
access to sites that include the blocked terms.
Akin guided former student Hope Masterson-Krum in an
independent study of kid-safe search engines. The study, which
was published in the October 2001 edition of Teacher Librarian
magazine, queried representatives from major kid-safe search
engine companies regarding the procedures used in blocking
inappropriate sites. Most companies (64 percent of respondents)
used a combination of filtering technology and human reviewers,
while 25 percent used an index created solely by humans.
Krum's study took the search engines on a test
drive, using a list of terms which children might look up
on the Internet, including barbie doll, boys
life, teen jobs and sex education.
The study found that, of the 1,280 results examined, five sites
were found to be pornographic while two presented adult themes.
Krum reported that while kid-safe search engines were found to
be 99 percent porn-free, access to relevant information was
compromised due to keyword blocking or a failure to recognize
part or all of the query.
Despite the potential pitfalls involved in online searches,
Akin said, the Internet is a useful research tool for children.
The Internet presents opportunities and
challenges, she said. Children come into an
electronic world, and the use of this technology needs to be
reinforced by parents, teachers and librarians.
Akin said most schools have an Acceptable Use
Policy, which is a contract between the student and the
teacher or school. The policy, which lists what students can and
can't do online at school, is signed by the student and his or
her parents. If the student violates the contract, Akin said, his
or her privileges can be revoked.
Technology also enables school librarians to view the computer
screen without the student's knowledge, Akin said. If a student
is found to be looking at an inappropriate site, she said, the
librarian can cause the screen to go blank.
Akin said parents can ensure their child's online safety at
- Becoming Internet-savvy themselves. They need to
know the process of what their child is doing, she
- Exploring child-safe search engines and knowing which one
the child's teacher or librarian recommends.
- Knowing what the child's homework is.
- Sitting with the child at the computer on a random basis
and watching what he or she does.
- Knowing the legitimate sites and steering the child
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