Jean Umiker-Sebeok, Ph.D.
School of Library and Information Science
Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library
Saturday, October 11, 1997
The Internet is a worldwide network of computers which communicate with each other. Like in a telephone system that allows people to call from almost anywhere to any part of the world, a computer connected to the Internet will allow its users to exchange information with one another. The thousands of host computers connected to the Internet are able to communicate successfully because they share a common "language" known as TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol).
The Internet spans every continent on the globe, including Antarctica. There are tens of millions of people using the Internet in over 100 countries. Its growth is staggering. It is estimated that 100 million people will be using the Internet by 1998.
Like an "Information Commons," the Internet offers people a fast and cost-effective way of communicating and sharing information. People of all walks of life come to share their ideas, shop and sell products, make new friends, swap recipes and gossip, play, study, search for health information, contact elected officials, visit museums, make investments, attend conferences, collaborate on scientific projects, worship, organize for collective action, look up the weather and news, "commute" to work without leaving their home or family, and even mourn the passing of a loved one.
In its earliest years, the Internet was used primarily by scientists, who created the Internet to share research information. Later, as computer networking became commonplace and utilizing the Internet became easier, its use expanded into the business community. Access prices began to fall in the 1990s, making it possible for home computer users to connect to the Internet. No longer limited to young, male, well-educated computer buffs, Internet users now include people of all ages and walks of life.
The World Wide Web is an information and communication system linking electronic resources together (including text, sound, pictures and video) through the use of hypertext transfer protocol (http). Because the WWW is fun and easy to use, it has opened up the Internet for a broad spectrum of people. Like a giant encyclopedia which allows you to see text, images, sounds and animation on computers around the world, the online `pages' of the Web are connected through hyperlinks which allow you to explore material on a given topic by simply clicking a mouse. The Web is normally accessed with a browser such as Netscape or Internet Explorer. WebTV may be used to surf the Web via your television.
An engaging multimedia environment, the WWW has become an extremely popular way to share information on the Internet. Since there are an increasing number of programs which make creating Web sites fairly simple, and public information terminals are becoming available in libraries, social service centers, post offices and many other places, a wide range of people can and have become Internet publishers as well as passive "readers".
Learn the Net - A friendly primer
This site will familiarize you with all the basics of the Internet, including the World Wide Web, E-mail, and newsgroups. The "Digging for Data" section details processes and strategies for searching the Web. "Web Publishing" can help you get started creating your own Web pages.
NetLinks! Newbie Help Link
"Newbies," or Web beginners, can find many helpful tools on this site. "Netiquette 101" outlines the etiquette of the Internet. The "Newbie Help File" contains a short Web navigation tutorial. The site also provides links to Web search engines, recommended readings and newsgroups, and many other helpful sites.
World Wide Web FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Looking for the answer to a specific question about the Web? Try this FAQ, a list of questions frequently asked by new Internet users (and the answers, too, of course!)
Internet Literacy Consultants Glossary of Internet Terms
A master list of Internet terms, arranged alphabetically and cross-referenced.
Link to GLOSSARY
A shorter list of terms and definitions, created specially for use with this Website.
Interested in connecting to the Internet from home? Here's some information to get you started. There is specific information about how Indianapolis-area families can get help with getting on the Internet.
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As parents, you want the best for your children and you are always on the lookout for tools which will help you do a better job of nurturing them. You want your children to have enriching encounters with the world which will expand their horizons in ways that encourage sound intellectual, social and emotional development. The Internet offers an incredible wealth of resources for enriching your children's lives.
Below are links to sites which will give you an idea about the kinds of information and activities available on the World Wide Web. This is only a tiny sampling. As you will see, each of these sites is a threshold to many, many, more. There really is no end to the available information.
Before you try these links, please note that the speed with which you will be able to access these sites will vary depending on the equipment you use to connect to the Internet (see "Getting Connected"). Images and music are especially slow to access if you are using a slow modem. If you are having trouble with long waits, you will know why some people call the WWW the "World Wide Wait." |
Another thing to remember is that Web sites (especially the small ones done by individuals) are constantly changing, moving from one address to another, and sometimes disappearing altogether. This adds to both the excitement and the annoyance of using the WWW. We are trying to keep this site up-to-date so that its links are working. Please let us know if you find some problems and we'll make the necessary corrections!
Family web sites to start with:
Disney.com. The Web Site for Families
This site is as polished as you would expect a Disney site to be. It provides good examples of many the ways that Web sites can foster interaction between people. Check out their BOARDS (Bulletin Boards where people can post messages about selected topics), CHATS (Chat Rooms where you can chat with others who are logged in at the site when you are), and E-MAIL (which you can use to communicate one-on-one with the Disney site managers and other site users). The site changes frequently to reflect the current season or holiday. Their "Family" section includes activities and informative articles, which you can even e-mail directly to a friend! The "Kids" section offers games based on recent Disney films, online storybooks, and various files to download, including coloring pages, sound files, and more.
The Kwanzaa Playground
Not all sites are created by companies like Disney. This site is a good example of how the WWW can be used to organize and communicate about projects done by ordinary people who come together to produce wonderful things that benefit their local community. This site was created to explain and expand on the themes of the Kwanzaa Playground in Columbus, Ohio, which combines a sculpture garden, neighborhood playground, and education of neighborhood youths about their ethnic traditions and values. Visitors can learn about the artists who decorated the playground and view their art. Also available is information about the holiday of Kwanzaa and an elementary school art curriculum unit based on the park and its artwork.
The Family Surfboard
This site uses the Internet to combine entertainment and education for the whole family. Features include a "Children's Internet Activity Center," the "KidsÍ Internet Soapbox," and lists of recommended links to other Web sites.
Easy Internet for Families
A nationally syndicated column written by Tia Leschke about great Web sites for families. The site includes all the links from previous columns (grouped by topic) and links to recommended shareware.
Devoted to the health of children and teens, this site has interesting features for both parents and kids. Check out the health tip of the day, or the "How the Body Works" animations!
A complete virtual community on the Web, with its own schools, mall, entertainment complex, and much more. You can move into Cybertown by getting your own (free) colony apartment. Much of the site is available in 3-D virtual reality.
Educational.net Parents and Kids
The site contains a list of links for parents and kids, arranged by topic. While some are just "cool sites," several deal with safety and family issues.
Another grouping of links related to children and education. Most are sponsored by large media outlets, government agencies, or corporations.
Web Broadcasting System
This site is a hub for hundreds of "chat rooms." All you have to do is choose your special interest, be it movies or a music group, and click "Go" and you'll find yourself chatting with like-minded fans around the world!
Steve Savitsky's Interesting Places For Kids
Steve did the hard work for a lot of parents when he created this list of links for his 12-year-old daughter, Katy. Many of the sites listed are award-winners, and they are categorized into groups like art and literature, museums and exhibits, and science and math. Steve pays particular attention to security issues, which will be appreciated by many parents.
K-12 Electronic Guide for African Resources on the Internet
A list of links to educational Web resources dealing with African history and cultures. This site provides another good example of how the WWW can help your family research topics for homework or family education projects.
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Sites for Parents:
You'll find everything from teething to college loans on this parenting site. Special sections group information for expecting parents, parents of babies, parents of toddlers, and parents of school-age children, and parents of teens. Chat groups with other parents and parenting experts are also available.
An online community with an informative site that covers health issues, holiday and activity ideas, recipes, and more. Members have access to 30 daily chat sessions and several topical bulletin boards.
You can get age-specific information on this site, which tailors itself to the age of your child in years, months, or trimesters! Online chat sessions with health and parenting experts are a regular feature.
Starbright - Parents Corner (sick kids)
Links to Web resources on various diseases, summer camps and hospitals for sick children, and personal stories of parents dealing with a child's critical illness are available here.
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Sites for Kids:
Yahooligans. The Web Guide for Kids
This is the kid-sized version of Yahoo, one of the Web's most popular search engines. You can use Yahooligans to either search for a particular topic or browse through topically-arranged lists of links. Designed for kids ages 7 to 12.
Virtually React - Online Magazine for Teens
This online "Webzine" changes weekly and contains articles on music and movies, a poll of the week, and daily jokes.
Ika's Stories - The Fairy Tales of Ika Bremer
Narrated by "Bla-bla," the friendly frog, these online tales are available in English, Spanish, and German. Most of the stories, like "Tress," have beautiful illustrations. Try "The Wacky Planets" for an interactive riddle of a tale.
B.J. Pinchbeck's Homework Helper
"Beege" and his dad have collected links to over 415 helpful sites for young scholars. The links are arranged by school subject, such as English or Foreign Language.
Connect Times KidSpace
Kids can contribute their own artwork, pictures, stories, and messages to this site and share them with the world. Cool links are also available.
Internet Kids Discussions
KIDLINK is an international, grass-roots effort to build global dialogue among young people ages 10 to 15. The site is available in seven different languages, including English, Spanish, and Japanese. Visitors can send e-mail to kids around the world or collaborate with them to work on projects.
A compilation of some of the best (and safest) links for kids. Topics include homework help, computers, entertainment, and sports.
A safety-conscious site for kids around the world. Symbols identify links that contain ads, and all meet safety standards. On this site, you can find a pen pal, chat with groups of other kids from around the world, or leave your mark on the "Graffitti Wall."
Links and more links! This page will link you to pages of links on music, movies, and other cool stuff.
Royal Tyrrell Musuem
Explore this Canadian dinosaur museum online. You can view special online exhibits, take a virtual tour of the museum, or even download a virtual reality dinosaur!
If you're into the nitty-gritty facts on dinosaurs (or need to do a report on them!), check out this site. The "Omnipedia" includes several dino-dictionaries, a pronunciation guide, and maps of ancient Earth. The "Dinosaur Picture Gallery" houses good quality photos of various fossils.
David's Dolphin and Whale Watching Site
Ever wonder how a Killer Whale says "hello"? You can hear it for yourself on this site, which contains pictures and soundfiles of many species of dolphins and whales. David also thoughtfully provides links to other information-rich marine life sites.
Wacky Web Tales
Check out this site for hours of giggles! Just choose a story, plug in your own nouns, verbs, and friends' names, and out comes a wacky new tale! You can even write your own Wacky Web Tale for others to fill in.
Creative Wonders Games
Challenging games for kids of all ages can be played on this site. From "Global Trivia Challenge" to "Slam Dunk Drill," some of your favorite characters from books and TV guide you through the games. You need the Shockwave plug-in to play most of the games. Back to top
Listservs are electronic mailing lists that focus on different topics. Subscribers can receive e-mail messages from all the other subscribers or send a message to the entire list. There's a listserv out there for just about any interest, hobby, or profession you can think of! Here are a few to get you started:
Babies mailing list
Moms Online Main Mailing List
The NetGirl Forum Newsletter
ParentsPlaceNews - The weekly newsletter from ParentsPlace.com
Parent Soup Newsletter
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- Pornography of all kinds
- The grotesque - photos of suicides, murders, autopsies, etc.
- Texts and images glorifying pedophiles, serial killers, etc.
- Hate literature and propaganda
- Political or religious views that conflict with your family's religious or political views
- Extremist organization recruitment - White supremacists, militants, etc.
- Physically or legally dangerous information - how to build bombs or illegal drug labs
- Scams and fraud - offers of free long distance, real estate deals, etc.
- Dirty language, exhibitionism, etc. - available through Real-time Internet services such as Internet Relay Chat, CU-SeeMe, and real-time Audio
There's plenty of undesirable content on the Internet, but parents may be somewhat reassured by the fact that much of the potentially offensive material still takes some effort to locate. Your child must actively go looking for it and spend a considerable amount of effort downloading and decoding it.
Guidelines for Internet Safety
While this description of some of the dangers of the Internet for children may have you reaching to unplug your computer, think again. The Internet isn't some evil empire. The dangers it poses are not too different from those one finds in many non-digital public spaces, and the methods you have chosen to protect your children to these threats can work equally well in cyberspace:
Cybersmarts are not a whole new frontier in parenting. They're just an extension of the common-sense things you've told your kids all along.|
(David Plotnikoff: http://cgi.sjmercury.com/family/before.htm)
What are some technological and non-technological ways to help your children avoid those corners of the Internet which contain ideas and behavior that some parents would prefer that their children not encounter?
- Educate yourself about the Internet.
Know the difference between a place to play games, a place to chat or a place to get help with homework.
- Supervise your child's Internet activity.
By supervising your children's Internet activity you will be prepared to answer any questions they may have when they find something controversial. You should be around enough that your children take your presence for granted.
|Treat Internet activities as a partnership with your child.|
The Net is a public place and should not be used as a baby sitter. You wouldn't just drop your child off in the middle of a big city and tell her to go have fun for a few hours. Identifying Internet exploration as a family activity is made easier by locating the computer in a family room of your home rather than in a private space, such as the child's bedroom.
- Talk openly and honestly with your children about what kinds of information you value, what you wish them to avoid, and why.
Share your judgment, guidance, and perspective with them. Talk with your children about where they're going before there's a crisis or confrontation.
The only long-term answer is to educate your children about pornography, hate literature, etc., so that when they come across it, they'll know how to react. The only software you can be sure they'll be running is the stuff you install between their ears. |
Stephen C. Steel, cited by Vince Distefano et al., Child Safety on the Internet. , 1997, p. 67)
It's never too early to start educating your child about the Internet. Perching your toddler on your knee for some minutes of cyber adventure can be a great bonding experience for parents and grandparents alike if there is good communication about the experience!
- Teach your child how to think critically about Internet sites.
While you and your child explore the Internet together, raise the following questions about the sites you visit. Your child will gradually learn to be a discerning Internet user and she will be better able to separate good information and experiences from bad ones.
How to Critique Internet Sites
(Vince Distefano et al., Child Safety on the Internet. Upper Saddle River NJ: Prentice Hall, 1997; 800-382-3419; http://www.classroom.net)
In addition to becoming a discerning Internet user, you want your child to be a wary one when it comes to using the Net to make contact with strangers. Gradually introduce your child to the following ideas, and make sure they know that these rules are as important to their safety as "Never talk to strangers":
Six Things Every Kid Should Know
- If you cannot be around as your children surf, and are still not sure if you can trust them to surf alone, consider restricting access to only those times when you can be present.
- Download desirable Internet resources to your hard drive for your children to use when you cannot be with them.
In this way, you are not depriving them of all Internet contact in your absence. It is a good idea to let your children help you define what these resources are, rather than doing it by yourself. Remember, if you make your children a partner in use of the Internet, they are more likely to exhibit responsible behavior. Software such as WebWhacker (http://www.ffg.com/whacker/) can help you download sites.
- Develop a customized family Web site for your children, with links to sites that they will enjoy.
After you and your children have explored the Internet and developed some web-building skills, you can carry your partnership one step further and become producers of information as well as receivers. Create a family web site with sites the children love, easy email connections to friends, grandparents, neighbors, the public library, and other important people in your family's support network. Your children can also post their favorite artwork or poems for friends and family to admire, get a look at grandma's new flower garden, organize a neighborhood lemonade stand with friends, and in many other ways build sound and solid personal relationships. Here are a couple of examples of family home pages from among the thousands on the Web:
- If they cultivate on-line friendships, scrutinize them to the same degree you would any friends.
Keep abreast of who your child is communicating with on-line. There are technical ways of snooping on your child's on-line interactions, but, if you've been working as an open partnership all along, your children will know that you care and are interested, and why, which will allow you to use less draconian communication techniques.
- Set reasonable limits on how much surfing is permissible, and when, before your kid starts running up huge phone bills. Know what the different services cost.
This has become less of a problem since many common Internet Service Providers (ISP) now charge a basic monthly membership fee with unlimited on-line connections. However, check with your ISP about this and about the costs for storing the web sites that your family creates.
- Use on-line commercial services which offer parental controls to block objectionable content.
America Online: Master account holders can block access to instant messages, People Connection chat rooms (all rooms or just the more raucous member-created rooms), conference rooms and Usenet newsgroups (all groups, specific groups or groups containing certain words in their titles). Right now, there are no Web-browsing controls. A new set of controls that will allow access only to AOL children's areas is on the way. KEYWORD: Parental Controls.
CompuServe: To block access to a specific CompuServe forum, you must contact the operator of that area.
Prodigy: Master account holders can block access to all Usenet newsgroups, all Web sites, Prodigy chat rooms (all rooms or specific rooms) and Prodigy bulletin boards (all boards or individual boards). Prodigy also automatically blocks access to chat, newsgroups and the Web. A parent must choose to enroll a child's sub-account in those areas.
Work with your ISP about ways you or they can control children's access to objectionable materials. Also ask about their specific acceptable-use policy (AUP) or terms of service (TOS) agreement and how it protects younger customers.
- Use software that filters what your children see.
The firms listed below make filtering software that works with direct Internet connections. All are available on the Web and are priced around $40-$50. These filters monitor the data stream coming into the computer and block it when children try to access objectionable Web addresses. Sites declared off-limits can be a pre-determined file prepared by the filtering service, a set of sites designated by parents or a mixture of both. Some also offer blocks on e-mail, newsgroups and file transfers:
SurfWatch. (1-800-458-6600)_comes free on a CDROM with the book, Child Safety on the Internet. (Upper Saddle River NJ: Prentice Hall, 1997 - 800-382-3419; http://www.classroom.net)
CYBERsitter, for Windows only. (1-800-388-2761).
Net Nanny. (1-800-340-7177).
Cyber Patrol. (1-800-828-2608).
Internet in a Box for Kids, currently available for Windows only, is a one-box Internet-access package designed for kids ages 8-14. It includes: a complete set of Internet software tools, FreeZone (an on-line "club" for children) and the SurfWatch filtering software noted above. Unlike other filtering packages, it will work only if you are on CompuServe's network. (1-800-557-9614).
And many more: See Child Safety on the Internet for a complete list.
The Parents Place Web site is a mom-and-pop-run resource that includes links to The Computer Museum Guide to the Best Software for Kids, the National Parenting Center, and other related sites. You'll find parent-to-parent advice forums, freshly updated feature articles, book reviews and more.
The popular pamphlet Child Safety on the Information Superhighway, produced by the Interactive Services Association and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, is available for free by calling the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at (800) 843-5678. This pamphlet is also available at the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Libraries.
Also check out Child Safety on the Information Highway on the Web at: http://www.larrysworld.com.
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As more of our local institutions - libraries, schools, churches, museums, libraries, etc. - acquire on-line capabilities, there are new opportunities for parents to play an active role in developing local community networking which fosters a rich environment in which children can learn in an atmosphere of mutual respect, civic responsibility and caring. Here are some projects that might benefit your neighborhood:
These are only some of the things parents can do with local community network action. Here are some other ways people are using the Internet in their local communities:
Indiana's Official Web Site
Map of Indiana Community Web Sites
School of Library and Information Science
Main Library 011
Bloomington, IN 47405
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