Helping Educators Protect Children – Why Internet Monitoring is Needed

The number of children who use the Internet is soaring. Currently more than 30 million kids under the age of 18 use the Internet. That represents nearly half of the children living in the United States. 14 million children access the information highway from school, a figure that is expected to increase to 44 million by 2003. Also by that year, we believe more students will access the Internet from the classroom than from home according to the Consortium of School Networking.

Over the last decade, while the numbers of people who use the Internet grew, the Internet, and what it is used for, has changed as well. It is no longer a community of scientists and academics. Now, anyone can publish whatever he or she wants on a web site and have an instant worldwide audience. While the World Wide Web opens up a world of information, entertainment, and social interaction to kids, it also gives them access to some very unfriendly information. Today there are nearly 7 million pornography sites on the web and that number increases by the day. Children unwittingly plug an innocuous word into a search engine and not only does the information they seek pop up, but often, so do porn sites, and sites with topics devoted to bomb-making, weaponry, gambling, and drugs. Just like the World Wide Web, if we consider it an entity, does not know the ages of the people who surf it, inappropriate email does not know the age of its addressee, and it shows up in everyone’s email box. Worst of all, the Internet makes it possible for the worst sort of predator, the pedophile, to creep into our schools and homes.

Organizations ranging from schools and hospitals to churches and businesses now rely on the Internet for access to information. It also provides instantaneous access to vendors, suppliers, sales, customer service and more. But with the good, comes some bad. Along with all the vital information that flows across the web, there is also content that is at best inappropriate and at worst illegal. Educators who fail to protect their students from some of this easily obtainable material face a host of problems, including legal liability (last year employees at a public library in Minneapolis filed suit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) saying that exposure to porn due to patron surfing constituted a hostile work environment) negative publicity, wasted money due to nonproductive use of equipment (excess lines, routers, disk storage and printers, unreliable or slow connections, etc.), and, of course, the human costs, which are incalculable.

Our children are our most precious and vulnerable citizens and they are at risk. But the risk is nott necessarily where we as parents and educators think it is. Law enforcement officers who deal with the growing problem of cyber crime report that web content is one problem, but major criminal activity is taking place in chat rooms, instant messaging applications, and in email. These modes of communication have given predators or pedophiles access to online playgrounds where they find children to virtually, and potentially literally, molest. The Internet has provided these criminals with a means of communicating with millions of children. The fact that they have anonymity means that they are free to pose as anyone they want to.

The problem is larger than we think. Consider that one Midwestern city with a population of 190,000 has 270 registered sex offenders. This is one small city. When a cyber crime enforcement agent in that city recently logged into a chat room posing as a 13-year-old girl, he had ten men wanting to talk sexually with her within 5 minutes!

I. An Overview of the Children’s Internet Protection Act

The Children’s Internet Protection Act was signed into law in December of 2000. The law became effective in April of last year. CIPA mandates the use of blocking, filtering or monitoring technology on computers in public libraries and schools receiving E-rate telecomm discounts or Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) or Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) funds to filter harmful to minors material. The law has not been universally praised. Organizations ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the American Library Association (ALA) have filed suits with the goal of overturning the law.

The ALA believes the legislation is unconstitutional because it limits access to constitutionally protected information that is available on the Internet at public libraries. The bill, introduced by Senator John McCain, the republican from Arizona, requires libraries to adopt acceptable use policies accompanied by technology that would block access to material harmful to minors.

This is obviously a very controversial issue. At one recent hearing about the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), a hearing that took place in California, one ALA representative testified that ALA members routinely review books and other material, including videos, music and magazines in order to determine which material is appropriate for their readers. They essentially filter material before it is placed on library shelves. And if it is deemed inappropriate, they block it. At this hearing, a COPA commissioner asked why the ALA does not want to do the same thing for information on the Internet. The only reply from the ALA representative: the information is different. Different is certainly one way to see it!

My question for you is: why should information that is available on the Internet be subject to less strict control than books or magazines or music or video? The material that is published on paper, whether in books or magazines or appears in video form, is scrutinized very carefully, and federal and state laws mandate that minors be prevented from obtaining some of this material. Why should information on the Internet be treated any differently? Why should we allow our children access to such material because it is different? We are not talking about book burning; we are simply questioning the controls in place for this new and easily accessible information source.

I believe that CIPA, COPA and COPPA, along with all the other acts proposed, or those that are already law, have not gone far enough. Our children are not adequately protected. And it is our job to address the issues that affect our children. We have a moral obligation to our future generations to protect them. In our society children mature sooner because of the myriad of instant communications available, unmonitored communication has contributed to the loss of innocence. We must protect our children, and not give the only voice on this subject to those who believe the right to free speech is more important than safety.

II. A Look at the History of Content Controls

In the mid-1990s, reports of the negative experiences that children were having on the Internet began to make headlines. At the 1994 Fall Comdex meeting, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Interactive Services Association issued Child Safety on the Information Highway, the first statement suggesting that parents should monitor their childrren internet activities. As any parent knows, Do’s and Don’ts lists simply do not work. Kids are curious, and whether intentionally or accidentally, will find their way to inappropriate material. If we also consider that an estimated 5 million new or renamed websites are put up every week, it’s easy to understand why it seems impossible to protect ourselves and our children from potentially destructive material. Another approach, limiting access by rating internet content thereby preventing children from accessing harmful content the way that movie theaters prevent children under age 17 from buying tickets to R rated movies has been ineffectual. Only about 150,000 websites, out of the hundreds of millions of web sites, have registered to rate themselves.

Several years ago, in response to concerns from the public, from parents, from educators, and from law-enforcement officers, congress and advocacy groups began to look for ways that the government could control children access to harmful material, a movement that culminated in the Communications Decency Act, an amendment to the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

At the same time that the ratings debate waged, companies began to develop filtering and monitoring software products. In 1996 there were just a few; by 1997 there were about 3 dozen and last year, there were more than 100 on the market. There are a variety of products available. Most rely on lists of URLs and then block access to sites that appear to contain pornographic material. If a user attempts to go to such a site, the user receives a message stating that access to this specific site is prohibited. Other applications filter the information on the Internet and look for keywords that indicate the site may contain material that is inappropriate for children. Essentially, the URL blocker blocks the entire site while the filter allows access to the site, but filters out the information that is inappropriate. Opponents say that these approaches overblock content, filtering out references to breast cancer, and to researchers who hold magna cum laude honors, and so on.

Most recently, several products that monitor user activities have been offered to the public. These applications do not block or filter, but rather promote the organization Acceptable Use Policy and monitor the computer user activities. If the user violates the organization Acceptable Use Policy by accessing pornographic or other inappropriate material, the systems administrator or other assigned person is notified. This approach is becoming increasingly popular because when an organization posts its Acceptable Use Policy, and its users know their computer use is being monitored, it puts the responsibility back in the user hands. In other words, if a user knows the Acceptable Use Policy, and he or she chooses to violate the policy, then presumably he or she is willing to suffer the consequences.

III. The Consortium for School Networking

In order to help schools understand the far-reaching on-line safety issues and comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act, the Consortium for School Networking is providing updated resources related to Internet safety. At http://www.safewiredschools.org, school leaders and parents can find a downloadable PowerPoint presentation on factors they must consider for Internet protection. There is also a detailed compliance guide covering all of the requirements of CIPA legislation.

According to the CoSN, when a school decides to manage or monitor the content that their students can access via the Internet, they will need to consider a variety of issues. Among them: Local community and international standards, for the www is an international entity that knows no boundaries, the culture of the school district, the degrees of control that teachers and administrators want to retain, the extent to which teachers and other officials wish to be involved on an ongoing basis, and cost. School administrators will also have to decide whether rules will vary according to children’s ages.

Among the approaches that the CoSN outlines in its briefing:

1. Acceptable Use Policies. Whether or not a school ultimately decides to use a filtering, monitoring or blocking application, it should still have an Acceptable Use Policy which children are aware of before they go online. The National Center for Educational Statistics reported in May of 2001 that 98 percent of schools with Internet access had an Acceptable Use Policy in place. Typically a student and his or her parents will be asked to sign off on the policy at the beginning of the school year. The policy should spell out the consequences a student (or staff member) will face if the policy is violated.

2. Monitoring. School districts may opt to take the approach in which they gives students unlimited access, but monitor the sites that individual students (and staff) have accessed. This gives an administrator the opportunity to respond to a student/staff member who is spending too much time on sites that are obviously not school-related.

3. Blocking/Filtering. Filtering means allowing access to a restricted number of web sites. Access is either limited to a specific list of approved sites, or access is blocks to sites that are considered off limits. Someone ultimately has to decide which sites will be included on the list. Some teachers and school officials may want to retain complete control over that, but others will opt to have a third party manage the process for them.

4. Proxy Servers. Some school districts decide to install filtering software on the district proxy server. It can also be used as a firewall, providing protection from viruses as well as access by hackers and other outsiders.

5. Application Service Providers. This is a relatively new option, whereby a school district hires a company to manage the school’s computer applications from the company’s own servers.

6. Filtered Internet Access. Many Internet service providers that market to schools and families have adopted content controls of their own. Users can then decide whether or not to use the controls.

7. Portals and Search Engines. There are a growing number of search engines and portals aimed at the education market. In some cases the school can configure their system to go straight to that portal or search engine. Administrators will need to carefully consider how restrictive these portals actually are, and whether they allow children to access inappropriate sites though back door methods.

8. Green spaces. Proprietary networks or Intranets designed for children are sometimes referred to as green spaces. They are designed to create closed spaces where children can roam freely among content that has been deemed appropriate for them. Generally speaking, they provide access to a relatively small number of sites.

IV. The Problems Posed by the Internet Today

As is the Internet itself, the tools and solutions we have at our disposal for managing and monitoring content are constantly evolving. Sadly, so are the methods of Internet users and the abusers who prey on children. Blocking and filtering have historically offered adequate protection for our children, but that is no longer reality.

Access to inappropriate information on the Internet is now roughly 25% of the problem. The other 75% of the problem is the material that arrives via chat rooms, instant messaging, email and attachments. Adults whose objective is to do harm to unsuspecting children know that they can find them by way of these seemingly innocuous methods. Predators use email and attachments, instant messaging, and chats to obtain personal information, to send sexually harassing and hate documents; they even use applications such as Word or Notepad to write and send such material. Children unwittingly transport this information via floppy disks and CDs that can be viewed in the classroom. Or they develop personal web sites at home, sites that contain explicit or disallowed material that can be accessed from school. These new problems demand new solutions that can address the full spectrum of problems.

V. What the Future Holds: Filtering, Blocking and Monitoring Tools Available to Educators and Parents Today

As technology changes so must our concepts of the problems created by such changes. The World Wide Web is growing exponentially and is a resource that gives any user access to ANY information, and provides the opportunity for any user to communicate with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Regardless of who is checking or how they are checking content, the main problem still exists. The Internet is an instant visual communication tool that has a dark underbelly. Teachers and parents must be made aware of all the dangers, not just those which exist with web content but that which is present in the chat rooms, instant messaging, e-mail, attachments and applications. We need the tools that will allow us to prevent people with evil intent from gaining access to our children and doing them harm.

Bringing Out the Best in Professional Library Staff in Sierra Leone

Introduction

Bringing out the best from library staff has been an issue for the proper functioning of librarians in Sierra Leone (SL). Librarians, according to Crosby (2008) are information experts in the Information Age. Their expertise in the handling of information has not been seen or realised, even though these professionals have been around for a long time. Librarians and information professionals have not attained the status and position they should rightly occupy in society. In most Ministries, Departments and Government Agencies (MDAs), where information handling and records keeping are key functions, librarians, records managers and information professionals have not been employed to do these jobs. Instead, other professionals, mostly people with accounting and business management backgrounds have been employed. In essence, the work of librarians has not been so much felt and appreciated.

Library and information services in Sierra Leone

Information is a fundamental asset for any society to thrive well in this 21st century. It is the tool by which learning takes place and decisions are made. It provides the needed answers to people’s requests and longings from all walks of life. Therefore, the provision of library and information services to all is undisputable. Almost all types of libraries exist in SL, because no individual library can provide all the information needed by every potential user. In this regard, different libraries exist to serve different users and their needs.

The Sierra Leone Library Board (SLLB) serves as both the National and Public library in the country. There are mainly nine (9) Academic libraries scattered throughout the country, all of these are found in the tertiary institutions (Universities, Colleges, Institutes and Teacher Training Colleges) providing higher education. School libraries are found in most Primary, Junior and Senior Secondary Schools. However, a vast majority of these are not functional. Special libraries are found in MDAs, private companies and individual established libraries. In addition to these are research and documentation centres, such as the Medical Research Centre; Information Resource centres, such as that established by the Embassy of the United States of America; and many small community information centres. These information centres are widely used by information seekers due to the main fact that they provide online services for almost free of charge.

The SLLB serves as the pivotal point for the provision of library and information services in the country. It is open to all: professionals, academics, researchers, students, pupils and for all children. There also, the general populace information needs are catered for. All of these are geared towards meeting our societal needs for information, education, research, entertainment and leisure activities.

Staff in libraries and information service institutions in Sierra Leone

There are two broad classes of staff employed in our libraries as is the case for libraries all over the world: those involved in library and information work, and those who provide back-up services. Library and information staff functions at different levels from non-professional, Para-professional, professional, specialists to managerial. At the support level, there are also manual/care taking staff, clerical/secretarial, technical and computer staff, and specialist staff. These all play a part in providing the information that users’ desire.

Library staff should function above the normal information provision role. Other important functions are:

I. Guide – providing physical, technical and intellectual guides to information resources in various formats;
ii. Collaborate – with others, known users as well as users who come for some manner of services over and over again, and even remote users;
iii. Prioritise – be flexible in performing new functions in order to incorporate new demands in procedures, structures and directions;
iv. Empower – delegate responsibility thereby empowering colleagues; and
v. Understand core capabilities – of the library, its environment, colleagues and most importantly the users.

Training library staff in Sierra Leone

The Institute of Library, Information and Communication Studies (INSLICS), Fourah Bay College (FBC), University of Sierra Leone (USL), is where Librarians and Information Professionals are trained and equipped for the world of work. INSLICS comprises two divisions that offer two distinct programmes: the Divisions of Mass Communication and Library, Archive and Information Studies respectively. The Mass Communication Division offers academic courses in the art and science of human communication and prepares students for career opportunities in public information services, print media, broadcast media, public relations, film production, advertising, marketing, advocacy and related fields. While the Division of Library, Archive and Information Studies caters for the professional training of librarians, records managers, archivists and information scientists to manage libraries, resource centres, information centres and related activities.

The Division of Library, Archive and Information Studies was formally established in 1986. It aims to provide for the training and education of Librarians, Archivists, and Information Scientists at a variety of levels, for those employed in both professional and non-professional capacities in Libraries, Archive Departments and Information Centres. Within the USL it is the particular mission of the Division of Library, Archive and Information Studies to educate men and women for professional careers as librarians and information specialists and to foster research and service programmes relating to society’s library and information needs.

Its goals are:

I. To furnish students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes that are basic to professional competence and career-long professional growth in the field of library and information services;
II. To expand the knowledge base of the profession through research; and
III. To share its resources by extending services within and beyond SL.

The Division currently offers the following courses:

1. Special Certificate in Library, Archive and Information Studies – this is a one year full-time course and is ideally suited to those with some experience of library and information work, who wish to receive training in basic library/information skills;

2. Diploma in Library, Archive and Information Studies – a two-year full-time course for those who may have some experience of library work and who hope to hold a Para-professional position in a library/information centre or archive in the future;

3. Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Library, Archive and Information Studies – a four-year full-time course;

4. Post-Graduate Diploma in Library, Archive and Information Studies – a one-year programme for graduates;

5. Master of Philosophy in Library, Archive and Information Studies – a two-year programme, i.e. one year taught programme and one year research.

The challenge for library staff

The challenges facing library staff in SL are numerous. Among them, the following are worth mentioning: low wages, limited capacity, no proper networking, poor infrastructure, users’ ignorance and the polemics of status.

The challenge of users’ ignorance

An anonymous writer once wrote that “A library is a hospital for the mind.” This means that the librarian is the trained doctor or nurse to administer treatment to every sick mind. This also means that the user who needs information is the sick mind that really needs treatment from the librarian. This is the ideal case, but not the pragmatic one. For every Sierra Leonean needs information for survival and growth; but going to the library is the major barrier. This is due to the fact that many are not well informed that the library exists to provide the daily information they want. As such there are libraries with information and knowledge to help people, but these people are unaware of going there for such help. It is therefore the responsibility of library staff to make people become aware that the library can meet their daily information needs. They must find ways and means to reach out to the public. Two important ways for every library are through the public relations and marketing library and information services.

The challenge of the polemics of status

Wilson (1982) stated that librarians have long exhibited a curious, and intense, status anxiety that is reflected in the endless polemics about the professional status (or lack thereof) among them. Librarianship should be one of those professions seeking a conspicuous status in the market. As Harris (1995) mentioned, since the inception of the idea of a ‘library’ in the United States, and more significantly, since the middle of the 19th century, librarians and friends of libraries have been debating the proper role of the library profession. Librarianship is one of those professions that impinge on the very survival of any society. The Librarian commands a unique status parallel with traditional professions in SL. If we can accept the saying that “knowledge itself is a form of power,” then the Librarian is the controller of that power. He is the custodian of the nation’s knowledge base.

A redefinition of the library profession and the librarian in developing countries is urgently needed. Just as how Huttemann (1985) mentioned that “self-sustaining and self-reliant Pan-African economic growth needs to develop its natural and human resources.” So the work and role of librarians are keys for SL to realise her much envisaged economic growth and prosperity. As Huttemann further stated that the promotion of socio-economic and cultural development can be conducted properly only if it is supported by sound information and documentation services needed for sectors like education, health services, agriculture, industry and trade alike. In essence, it is a matter of must that librarians should be in the business of accessing, organising, storing and disseminating information where and when needed.
It is also crystal clear that librarians must question the definition they have accepted. A thorough understanding of their role is a sine qua non for a clearer view. They must come forward with the goal of helping society to understand that they exist to provide information for survival and growth. This goal, as insisted by Bundy and Wasserman (1968) and Harris, Hannah and Harris (1998) must be to forge a new professional identity.

Librarianship, according to Taylor (1980), is the profession that is concerned with the systematic organisation of knowledge in all its various formats and its dissemination for the purpose of preserving society’s cultural heritage, promoting scholarship and the generation of new knowledge. However, this definition is far-fetched to the common understanding of many Sierra Leoneans. The general view is of some persons sitting behind many books in large stalks of shelves and waiting for patrons to come and request for assistance. For long librarians in SL have been labeled as “book keepers” and jobs for those teachers who have been left out unnoticeably by the school curriculum. The profession itself has long been battling with Public Relations (PR). As Mchombu (1985) put it ” In most developing countries, the percentage of population which are active library users is still very low… it is, therefore, important to encourage many more people from all walks of life to increase their use of Libraries so that existing information resources can be fully exploited” (p.115). In essence, as Mchombu further asserted library staff can no longer afford to sit and wait for a few enlightened readers to come to them, they must be more aggressive, be prepared to go out and search for and encourage all potential readers to come to the library because it has information which can be applied to what they are doing to improve final results.

To this, librarians must ensure that they emphasise on creating value from know-how and expertise. Bell (1973) has long since made this clarion call that the central figure in the post-industrial society will be the information professional. For as Bell insisted what counts is not raw muscle power, or energy, but information. The central person is the professional, for he is equipped, by his education and training, to provide the kinds of skill that is increasingly demanded in the post-industrial society.

Bringing out the best in library staff

The library profession must be able to overcome its challenges. A sure way of doing this is to motivate every library staff. When library staff are properly motivated, the best from them can be realised. Library managers should as a matter of must, make motivation for staff an issue of importance. Motivating staff in any organisation is probably the most difficult task of the manager. Not only do people react differently to the same stimuli but the motivation process is quite complex. It is concerned with those factors that stimulate human behaviour, how behaviour is directed, and how it can be maintained. Staff can seem at times to behave illogically, perversely and unpredictably. Contrary to the belief of some, the good management of staff is not just a matter of common sense. To manage staff requires a formal effort to grasp these influences so that our individual attitudes can be controlled and developed to meet the day to day staff situation in a way in which common sense will have difficulty (Shimmon, 1976).

It is particularly important that the manager of a service organisation like a library/information unit makes this effort for two reasons: Firstly, his product, being service is closely linked with the attitudes of serving staff themselves and it is not possible by inspection to reveal a faulty service in the easy way that faulty materials can be detected; and secondly, the cost of labour is likely to continue rising at a greater rate than that of the manager’s other main tools, machinery and materials, and he must therefore use the staff he really does need to best advantage (Webb, 1985). Some of the staff may be motivated by money and what it will buy, others by achieving ever higher services year after year, and some by the “thrill of the change.” Thus the manager, will need to address motivation in some depth by studying speculations such as organisational theory and behaviour.

The challenge for bringing out the best

Someone has said unofficially that Sierra Leoneans naturally are not difficult to please. Sierra Leoneans are generally motivated when the two lowest layers of Maslow’s pyramid are satisfied. One of the basic problems in this society is a good remuneration package that can take care of the basic needs of people. In this part of the world five basic needs are evident: food, shelter, clothing, transportation and medical. If attention is paid to these needs for every library staff, we have solved much of the problems affecting them and we are on the verge of getting the best from them.

So a good package must contain basic pay and allowances that will cover rent, transportation, and medical. The Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) announced minimum wage pay is Five Hundred Thousand Leones (SLL 500,000.00), placing it at Eighty United Dollars (US$ 80) at the current exchange rate (2016). This will not provide the good pay that librarians will want to work for. The rising cost of basic necessities, particularly food items, due to inflation in the country, means that this minimum wage is not encouraging. Therefore libraries must ensure that they go two times beyond this minimum wage pay in order to meet their staff basic need.

Furthermore, staff should be sent to the library school for training and development. Longer-serving staff without qualifications can be encouraged to do certificate programmes. Reference and other professional librarians are to be sent for refresher courses and exchange programmes for capacity development.

Conclusively, the best from library staff can be enhanced if the challenges facing them are dealt with and if they are properly motivated. Amongst the several challenges, user ignorance and the polemics of status are to be surmounted by librarians. Furthermore, they should be fairly motivated to take on their proper roles. In this sense, their remuneration packages as well as encouragement for career developments and trainings must be attended to. The library school should help in this direction.

Palau Community College – Meeting The Education Needs Of Palau Republic

Palau Community College, a part of college directory was established in 1969. Its beginnings could be traced to a trade school that was functioning from 1927 as a part of Japanese administration before the Second World War. Initially, this college began with just a small number of students as a part of a vocational program on the campus with very limited facilities. In April 1993, this Micronesian occupation center evolved into Palau Community college.

An important part of the college directories, this college is located in the Palau republic and is one of the few sources of higher education for this nation. Palau republic is an island group on the south east side of Philippines. It was a part of US administration but became independent in 1978. A University search reveals that it is one place that has accreditation by Western Association of schools and colleges. This college is spread over an area of around 30 acres.

Functioning

This is a Co-ed college and works on semester system with around 650 students at any one time being a part of this college. Palau Community College has three schools that are part of College directories in this region. These schools include School of Sciences and Arts, business school and Technical education school.

Departments and Courses Offered

Completion certificate, achievement certificate and associate degrees in fourteen various areas are offered as per needs of Micronesian community in this college. It offers programs and certificates in areas such as criminal justice, education, library and information service, environment and marine science, nursing and liberal arts in the arts and science school. In business school, programs offered include tourism, business administration, business accounting, office administration and information technology. Technical education school offers programs in nine different areas such as automotive mechanics, electrical technology, and construction technology among others.

Library and Other Facilities

A University search on Palau Community College library indicates that this library is the official depository for United Nations and World Health Organization among other organizations. It has an extensive collection of documents, material and CD-ROMs amounting to over 26000 in number. This makes it the largest library in Palau republic. The college can provide housing on the campus to between hundred and 120 students. This college also provides facilities called continuing education for individuals who wish to enhance their skills between employments or acquire new skills and it also offers special summer programs.