What do I do when my child is exposed to sexually graphic or explicit material at the public library?
Do you know what you'd do if your son came home from studying at the local public library and he mentioned that another student studying with him accessed pornography on the library computer? Or if he had conducted a seemingly innocent Internet search on a library computer that brought up pornographic images?
Your home computer is in a common room of the house and likely equipped with safeguards to protect your children when they are on the Internet at home. But what can you do about sexually graphic or explicit material they might access at the public library?
First, you should know you're not alone. Other parents and even children are concerned about online exposure to sexual material. In fact, a 2005 survey of youth found that more than one-third of teen Internet users (34 percent) were exposed to online sexual material they did not want to see. This is up from one-quarter of teens reporting unwanted exposure in a 1999 survey.
And those concerns are well-founded. Besides sexual material, there are other online dangers. Twenty percent of students in middle school, as well as high school, admit that they have met face to face with someone they first met on the Internet. In addition, 65 percent of high school students admit to seeing unsafe, inappropriate, or illegal activities online.
The good news is that there is federal law to help protect children from dangerous online material. The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires public schools and libraries that receive federal funds to install filtering software to prevent library users from accessing obscene, pornographic or visually graphic material on the Internet. Additional information about CIPA and a list of state laws protecting children from accessing sexually explicit material on public computers are available.