Guide to a G-Rated Internet
Let's say you have a computer, but you haven't connected to the internet yet. Should you make the jump?
As in most things, take a look at the good and bad. Here are a few:
- Email your friends and family.
- Get information, buy stuff, etc.
- Keep your system up to date.
- On-line entertainment (games).
- Costs money.
- Will tie up a phone line while online.
- Possible exposure to undesirable content.
I would like to talk about Bad #3: Possible exposure to undesirable content. I believe that, with a little caution, this should not be a problem.
The first step is trust. About parenting, it has been said, "Teach them correct principles, and let them govern themselves." Imagine a library that has every book and magazine ever published. Could you trust your son not to go and look for pornography? Could you trust yourself? If not, then I recommend that you stay away from the internet until you fix the fundamental problem. There is a lot of bad stuff to be found in the world, if a person looks for it. The internet just gives you access to more information, be it good or bad.
Before we go any further, you should know one thing: When you are surfing the web normally, it is very unlikely that filth is lurking just around the corner, ready to spring up and show itself. The internet is getting much better at self-regulation, and "adult" content is not just one click away.
As an example, consider your local video rental store. Ever notice the room in the back with the curtain covering the door? The curtain is there to keep people from accidentally wandering into the "adult" section. The web is taking the same approach. While not all the bad stuff is safely hidden away from public view, it's very rare to accidentally come across offensive material during normal use.
It is possible to follow links into disreputable areas of the internet. If you notice this happening, just leave and go somewhere else. A personal homepage is where an individual can put up whatever they want to. Sometimes they may place offensive material on their site.
One of the best ways to find information on the internet is to use a search engine. This is a website that lets you type in a few words, and then it goes out and finds other websites that might have what you are looking for. It gives you a list of sites with links to them, and a few words that should give you an idea about what is there. My advice: don't blindly click on these links; read the text first, and make sure it isn't going to send you to a disreputable website. Many search engines are now offering filtering services, including my favorite, Google. These do a very good job at blocking the trash that can leak in to your search results.
Many areas of the internet allow people to talk back and forth, either in real-time, or by leaving messages in a common area. Usenet, IRC, and email lists are examples of this. There is a lot of good information to be had in these areas, but you should be aware that many of them are unregulated. If you find yourself in a place where people are using language you don't want to hear, just leave. You might want to stick with "moderated" discussions.
Some people use the internet to exchange illegally copied software. This is called "warez" and sites that have it usually also have other kinds of undesirable content. I recommend staying away from this kind of thing.
There are software and services available to "filter" the content of the internet, preventing people from accessing forbidden web sites. These are good for libraries, schools, and places where the public can access the internet, because it makes it harder for people to intentionally find unacceptable material. In my opinion, these services are not needed for home use of the internet, for the following reasons:
- Additional cost for the software or service, and possibly a long distance access number to the Internet Service Provider.
- These services are designed to prevent intentional access to forbidden sites; with enough time a clever person can find a way to disable or work around the software. Finding offensive material should not become a game or a puzzle to be solved.
- Installing this software on a home computer says that you distrust someone in the household.
- If the reasoning behind installing this software is to prevent accidental access to offensive material, you should know that it will probably fail. This is because in the rare case that offensive material is accidentally found, it is probably some image that is in an unusual location, not specifically forbidden to the filter.
I believe that the internet is a safe place to explore and learn. There is so much information available for the asking. With a little wisdom, you will probably never even notice the dark side of the internet. I hope that this has been of some help. A computer that is not on the internet is kind of like a telephone that's not plugged in.
If you decide to go ahead and get connected, then welcome to the information age!