Lawton KSWO is reporting that State Representative Paul Wesselhoft wants to restrict Internet access by children at Oklahoma libraries. He says the goal is to protect children from being contacted by online sexual predators. He says a child might have an easier time getting into computer chat rooms at a library because a parent isn't in the area.
The bill would require children 12 and younger to have adult supervision when using Internet access at libraries and the adult must be a parent, guardian, teacher or childcare provider.
Children ages 13 through 17 would be required to present a card or other identification showing they have parental permission to access the Internet in libraries.
... this would be brilliant -- if it wasn't already the case for many public libraries in Oklahoma that receive E-rate discounts. CIPA requires libraries to filter internet access, for minors, if the libraries wish to receive E-rate funds. And a number of the filtering softwares out there already ban social networking and or chat sites.
I guess my question is -- what does he hope to accomplish by having this legislation? What's going to be the teeth behind it? Will the children, the library, or the parent be taken out in the street and made to wear a sign that says "I allowed teh potential viewing of pr0n to occur!"? Or is it just an attempt at saying "Look at me! I care about this issue!"?
I know there are several public libraries in Oklahoma that already require the parents to determine the level of internet access they want to allow their children to have or there are special children's computer which have no internet access at all -- but rather only have educational games and software. And I do applaud Rep. Wesselhoft's attempt at wanting a guardian present when a child uses the internet in a library -- but is it up to library personnel to stop every little person and demand to see their designated big person? And if so do we require a DNA test or paper work to prove that big person with the little person is the loci parentis? At some point in time doesn't parental responsibility to educate their children comes into play? And I could see the potential for a situation similar to what happened in Connecticut recently popping out of this.
So what could Rep. Wesselhoft focus on to better libraries for Oklahoma children? In one word -- Funding. Libraries (both school and public) are facing an increase in costs for books, journals, databases, filtering software subscriptions, as well as regular hardware and software costs. For instance most of the libraries in Oklahoma run Microsoft products -- do you know how much it will cost Oklahoma libraries and schools to slowly begin the transition to Vista and Office 2007 over the next few years? Yes the educational discounts will help but schools and libraries have a lot more computers than they did in late 2001 when Windows XP came out. Not to mention the cost of training staff, students and patrons to use the new software (and that's even if their existing computers can run it). And if Oklahoma schools want to turn out students who can compete on the global market -- well they will need to know how to use this next generation of computer software (although I'm all for OSS but that's a discussion for another post).
Also, if Oklahoma libraries and schools want to stay relevant more of them need to start implementing Library 2.0 technology -- which requires the personnel who know how to implement and utilize everything that goes with it.
So I would suggest that Rep. Wesselhoft take his good intentions for Oklahoma youth and focus on funding Oklahoma libraries and schools so that they can pay to have the best possible personnel and technology to help educate and keep our children safe. And to also encourage or fund classes for parents on the local level to bring them up to date on the technology and what tools are available to help keep their children safe online.
These thoughts are my own -- they are not necessarily shared by any individuals living or dead any where else in the known or unknown universe.