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The best Internet filter

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The only filter that truly protects children on the Internet is the parental filter.

The Salt Lake County Library Board is addressing the filter issue following a complaint by a patron. Despite the shortcomings of filters, they would be better than nothing on computers with Internet access that are used by children, the patron believes.

According to Jim Cooper, the new director for the Salt Lake County Libraries, one national study found that the best filtering system only halted access to about 5 percent of the pornographic sites available. The filters also block out many health-related sites.

Echoes library board member Lohra Miller, "In practice, it doesn't work." Librarians in the Salt Lake County library system regularly check the sites patrons are viewing, and if it's determined a pornographic site has been purposely accessed, that can be grounds for the offending person to lose all library privileges.

Regarding children, Cooper recommends that parents allow their children to use only a library's children's Internet page. That will ensure that their Internet journey is a safe one.

The best place to educate and train children about the Internet is in the home. That means that parents must first understand the dangers of cyberspace themselves. Many, if not most, parents don't realize how simple it is for children to access pornography and other inappropriate material. It's easy, for example, for children to be lured into a chat room for what they believe to be harmless dialogue. In reality, it could be perilous.

Chat rooms, while they can have legitimate purposes, enable predators who wouldn't have the nerve to make face-to-face contact with potential victims to anonymously communicate with them, establish relationships of trust and then arrange clandestine meetings.

That's one of the reasons that computers, either in libraries or the home, need to be located in easily accessible, high-traffic places. That makes it easier to monitor computer use by both children and adults.

Parents need to be vigilant regarding their children's use of computers — both at home and at the library.

While libraries may be able to provide some safeguards, they must have the help of parents to ensure a proper environment.