Current Pitfalls in Internet Use
As it has become a society-wide tool, the Internet also has spawned its share of society-wide debates and problems. In many ways, it is a reflection of the best and worst qualities of our society. Problems with equity and human behavior (and misbehavior) have already begun to emerge. Five kinds of potential problem areas are discussed here, along with strategies that educators can use to make the Internet a safer, more worry-free place for teaching and learning.
Potential pitfall #1: Accessing Sites with Inappropriate Materials
Like a big-city bookstore, the Internet has materials that parents and teachers may not want students to see, either because they are inappropriate for an age level or because they contain information or images considered objectionable. Yet the Internet is designed to make information easily obtainable, and unfortunately, such materials can be accessed all too easily by accident. For example, for years only the domain designator differentiated the website for our nation's Executive Branch (http://www.whitehouse.gov) from one with X-rated images and materials. Because it is so easy to access these sites, preventing students from accidentally landing on them can be difficult.
The Children's Internet Protection Act, signed into law December 21, 2000, is designed to ensure that libraries receiving federal e-rate funds take measures to keep children away from Internet materials that could be harmful to them (McNabb, 2001). Most schools have found that the best way to prevent access to sites with inappropriate materials is to install firewall software and/or filtering software on individual computers or on the school or district network that connects them to the Internet. Firewall software protects a computer from attempts by others to gain unauthorized access to it and also prevents access to certain sites (e.g., Norton Internet Security & SpyWare Doctor). Filtering software limits access to sites on the basis of keywords, a list of off-limit sites, or a combination of these (e.g., Cyber Patrol & Net Nanny).
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