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No doubt about it folks: the Internet is under seige. Dr. Laura's
diatribes are just a reflection of what "real" people are saying and
thinking. I have not seen one article or news report in the last two
weeks about school violence that has not included the "I" word. As a
proponent of the Internet, I am personally offended. Most of us are
aware of the dangers of the Net. If you aren't, just go to any search
engine and put in the words "pipe bomb" or any term that refers to
pornography. The amount of hits found will surprise you. My knowledge of
these dangers has aided me in teaching kids and adults to use the
Internet responsibly for the past 3 years.

Many parents are not aware of these dangers. When they find out about it
is is usually via Dr. Laura or others like her. Very few of these
critics mention that there is an abundance of  valuable information on
the Internet. That's where we come in. If we are teaching about Media
Literacy we must stress the value and subsequent dangers of the Net. We
have to inform parents that there are ways to control their childrens
access to information on the Net. Failure to do so will contribute to
the sense of powerlessness some parents feel about their children and
the media. I heard the President yesterday in an interwiew on the Today
show. He was praising the V-chip that allows parents to restrict age
inappropriate television shows in homes. He said that all new
televisions came with it installed. Well I have purchased new
televisions at home and in school during the past year and noticed no
information about activating a V-chip. If it was in the manual it was
well hidden.

Yesterday I asked a class of 22 Third graders who had the Internet at
home. So many hands went up that I asked who didn't have the Internet at
home. Only 4 children didn't have access. When I asked about filters and
parental restrictions less children responded favorably. I have to
believe that some of the parents were not aware of their choices. One
boy told of how his father had customized their AOL account to grant him
more permissions than his Kindergarten and First grade brothers. I am
going to make it my mission to get the word out to parents. To this end
I have put together a 2 page fact sheet that will be distributed
district wide. I would like to attach it to our school website and put
reminders in the PTO newsletters.

I am trying to counteract a statement made by a parent volunteer last
Spring while she was helping on a project. She stated that "the Internet
has destroyed the lives of many people I know". She went on to tell of
friends who had engaged in online correspondences that changed their
lives dramatically. I counteracted with stories of the positives aspects
of the Net but she wasn't interested. It never occurred to her that
these people were probably unhappy to begin with. Those boys in
Colorado, Arkansas, Alberta and Kentucky weren't affected only because
they had Internet access. There were other factors that contributed to
the gross dysfunction.

There is an interesting article about children  Internet use at home and
the Greenfield online survey  at:


If we are teaching Media Literacy we must be aware of these studies and
we must incorporate them into our lessons. Otherwise we are going to
find ourselves in a position where parents are challenging Internet use
in schools the way they challenge books.

Just my humble opinion,

BTW my favorite metaphor about the Internet is a comparison  to NYC (40
miles and a l hour train ride from my school). There are many wonderful
things to see and do in NYC and some harmful and dangerous thing to do
there. You would not put a 7 year old on the train to visit NYC alone
and you shouldn't allow this child on the Net without some sort of
guidance. Feel free to use this analogy.

Josephine Dervan
Library Media Specialist
Strathmore Elementary School
Aberdeen, New Jersey, USA 07747


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"Anyone who has a library and a garden wants for nothing"- CICERO


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