#45 Abuse Of The Web

Abuse Of The Web

This is always going to be an issue wherever you find one or more computers with web access. Schools, colleges, universities and businesses all have to deal with these issues. Whatever the answer is, I don’t think it should be the responsibility of a school librarian or teacher.

The librarian should always be aware of the school’s (and perhaps the regional authority’s) acceptable use policy. This is essential if you want to deal comfortably with daily issues as they arise. Some things are fairly obvious; pornography, rascist and sexist materials, bullying other pupils, should be taboo.

However, other things are not so clear cut. Some schools may want to allow access to YouTube for its educational content. On the other hand, there’s a lot of offensive material on YouTube. My own opinion is that these types of sites should be allowed, but that the Acceptable Use Policy should cover the viewing or downloading of innapropriate material. Pupils are generally aware about what they should and shouldn’t be downloading.

Schools or regional authorities will often use filtering software, which bans particular sites, or types of sites. On the other hand, pupils will always find ways round such filters, not least by the use of anonymous proxy sites. It is obviously the librarian’s responsibility to police pupils in the library at any given time, but walking round checking screens is not only time consuming and very confrontational, but also totally ineffectual.

If you do feel strongly about web abuse, you could try persuading your school to fund software such as MyPC or SynchronEyes, which allows you to view screens, send messages, logoff, shut down machines and ban users. Two years ago, I had reservations about such software on the grounds of privacy and data protection issues. However, after having used them my opinion is completely different. The only people who get annoyed by this type of software are the timewasters, the bullies, the miscreants and those who feel they have a right to access any kind of material in a public place. Not only do you get rid of these people, but you free up thousands of hours of computer time for those who want to actually work.

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