"Acceptable Use" means different things to different people. Many parents, teachers, and librarians are concerned about children and young adults getting into information resources that might be inappropriate. The question becomes who determines what's appropriate?

eye means readRead the American Library Association's Intellectual Freedom statements. These statements refer to electronic materials as well as traditional resources.

Read Facebook Fracas by Kathy Ishizuka in School Library Journal (April 2009) for an overview of the issues related to social networking.

The issue for public libraries focuses on the fine line between intellectual freedom and censorship. The issue for educators relates to age appropriateness

Like all people, children have the right to access information. However there is some debate over who should make the decision about what’s appropriate for a five, fifteen, or fifty-year old person.

eye means readRead to the following sections of this page to learn more about managing electronic materials:


Supervision of Children and Young Adults

Most people would agree that the Playboy, Penthouse, and Adult Forums are not resources appropriate for children and young adults. The question becomes, where do we draw the line? What about a “safe sex” site that provides information about contraceptives and AIDS? What about a site that discusses issues related to evolution and creation? What about tarot cards, UFOs, and ghost hunting? A “beer brewing” website may be of interest to adults wishing to make their own beer, but is inappropriate for young children.

In addition to issues about the age appropriateness of materials, there are also concerns about the accuracy of information, reading level, complexity of information, and other considerations that might make a site inappropriate for children.
How do you restrict student use without restricting intellectual freedom? Who determines age appropriateness? Who does the monitoring and/or censoring? After considering all the “questionable” materials students might find, some school districts are exploring options for restricting student access.

Always remember that young people have the right to access information. However there are also special considerations when dealing with minors and their access to online resources. For instance, some social networking sites have specific age requirements.

eye means readRead Intellectual Freedom for Youth: Social Technology and Social Networks in Knowledge Quest (PDF) by Annette Lamb.
Read Intellectual Freedom by Annette Lamb.

Many school and public libraries offer lessons and workshops related to responsible use of technology. These programs place emphasis of personal responsibility and the importance of being a good digital citizen.

eye means readGo to websites that focus on Internet safety for young people and explore some of the issues:

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Filtering Tools and Issues

Librarians agree that children and young adults need access to information. The question becomes whether or not to limit their access.

eye means readRead Censorship by Omission by Doug Johnson (January/February 2010).


eye means readRead the off-site article Filtered or Unfiltered by Ann Currry and Ken Haycock in School Library Journal

You have the spectrum of options from full to limited access. You may choose full-access to Internet with teacher supervision. In other words, rather than students exploring for any information they can find, you may restrict students to specific Web addresses.

Another option is limited access, which allows you to select a service with “lock out” capabilities. Many of the commercial services allow a parent or educator to place a password restricting access to some areas. Currently, these “lock outs” are fairly global and may provide more restrictions than you would choose.

"Surf Watch" and other similar filtering services provide software and regular updates that "lock-out" specific sites that have been identified as "inappropriate." Teachers can add or delete specific sites in addition to the ones already listed.

At the far end of the spectrum, you may choose a commercial educational service that selects the Internet resources for you. Rather than the educator making the decision about what might or might not be appropriate, educational services are setting up Internet services that provide only resources they have identified as useful to teachers and children. These types of services would reduce the amount of supervision that would be required, however you may lose some valuable resources. As you can see, there are many advantages and disadvantages of each alternative.

Congress recently announced the new web domain hoping to restrict child access to "objectionable" websites.

eye means readRead the article Don't Fence Kids In by Walter Minkel in School Library Journal (2/1/2003).

Explore sites dealing with child safety and filtering software

eye means readGo to Teacher Tap: Filtering Tools and Issues. What is your stand of filtering software in libraries?


Use the following websites for additional information:

Free Speech from ACLU
Explores why blocking software is wrong for public libraries

Libraries, the Internet and Filtering from ALA
One of many articles at the ALA website. Just do a search for filtering to find more.

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Contracts and Permissions

School and library administrators are becoming increasingly concerned about parent and public reaction to age inappropriate information on the Internet. This has led most schools to develop Acceptable Use Policies (AUP). These AUPs provide guidelines for administrators, students, teachers, parents, and patrons.

According to a 2007 survey by School Library Journal, 98% of schools have acceptable-use policies and 98% use filtering software.

Many schools and libraries require students to sign contracts and parents to read and sign permission slips. This procedure helps to inform parents about the potential concerns regarding Internet resources. In addition, it is thought that these policies would help protect the schools from possible legal problems associated with student and teacher action using the Internet.

Some schools and libraries have created mechanisms for students to take responsibility for their own actions. Student contracts may ask students to self-monitor their activities. They often discuss the importance of following basic rules of conduct on the Internet. You might consider using the following statements:

eye means readRead Better Safe Than Sorry: Does Your Library Have an Online Acceptable-use Policy? by Pat Scales in School Library Journal (March 2009) for a discussion or issues related to acceptable use policies.

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Acceptable Use Policies

Explore the following examples of acceptable use policies. Or, do a search on Google for acceptable use policies for libraries.

Acceptable Use Policies from NETC
Links to many policies

Public Libraries Acceptable Use Policies and Guidelines for Canada

School AUP Examples

Library AUP Examples

eye means readChoose an Acceptable Use Policy from the list above, use your own policy, or search library and school websites for policies. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the policy. Or, compare two policies. Be sure to share the policy you use.

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Adapted with permission from Chapter 4 in Lamb, A. (2006). Building Treehouses for Learning: Technology in Today's Classroom, Fourth Edition

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