Web Search Safety (What Our Internet Filters Might Not Catch)

Did you know that it is possible for students to run across objectionable material on the internet, even when they are at school? Well, unfortunately, that is very true, even though we maintain an internet filter. The problem is that filters are not foolproof! Sometimes, things “slip through the cracks.” Nothing can replace good student supervision on the computer. If you are using the internet with your students, supervision should be your biggest priority. You never know what might happen.

Second, I highly recommend that you use kid friendly search engines with students in elementary school, rather than Google. Yes, I use Google all the time, you use it all the time, but while supervising young students, it probably isn’t the best search engine to use. While most of the time there are no problems, sometimes our filter does not catch what types of website and articles are returned in a search. Most of the time it does a great job, but you never know.

If you decide to use Google Search with your students, you need to teach them how to turn on the safe searching feature on Google. Unfortunately, you will have to do this every time you start a search…it will not save your settings. In order to turn it on, click on advanced search. If you scroll down a bit, you’ll see where you can choose to filter a search using safe search. But even Google states that, while its filter will eliminate most objectionable material, it is not 100% accurate all the time.

With Google, you also have the option to search images, but once again, our filters do not catch everything here. Our filter uses text to filter sites…it can’t “see” images. So if an objectionable image has an ordinary or deceptive name, our filter may not catch it. If you want your students to have access to pictures (not available as clip art) during a project, you might want to save some to the K drive ahead of time for them to use.

Let me offer you three rules of thumb to use when doing research with elementary students:

1. Use search/ information sites specifically designed for kids. Try using…

For Use While at School:

Grolier Online Kids

Kids Infobits

Biography Resource Center

Infotrac

For Use At School and At Home:

Yahoo Kids!

National Geographic for Kids

Time for Kids

Picture Dictionary from Enchanted Learning

Ask Jeeves for Kids

Fact Monster

Kids Click

For your convenience, I’ve posted links to all these sites on your schools’ website.  To get there,

  1. Open Internet Explorer.
  2. Click on Students > Links for Kids.
  3. On that very first page, click on News, Weather, and Internet Research.

At East, Russ has also placed icons to Grolier, Infobits, Infotrac, Biography Resouce Center, and SIRS Discovery on the web on the desktop of the computers in the lab.   Also, your librarians are experts on finding information and can be an invaluable resource when you are deciding which sites to use.

2. Ahead of time, find two or three sites that contain the information you want your students to research, and have them visit those sites only. You can make a webpage to post the links, use schoolnotes, or use a bookmarking utility like del.icio.us to make it easier for your students. I can help you with any of these options.

3. Finally, supervise your students at all times, especially when they are on the internet. Make sure you are walking around the room and looking at what they are doing. Our labs are set up so that you can see all the screens if you stand in the back of the lab.  If something objectionable does occur, don’t panic. Quickly close the window on the student’s computer, but not in a way that would scare the child. If you need to, discuss the situation with the student. It would also be a good idea to jot down the date, time, and incident…just in case you are asked about it at a later date. Depending on the circumstance, you might also want to let the principal know what occurred, just so she is aware.

If you are interested in more information on internet safety, check out the State of Virginia’s Internet Safety Guidelines.

As always, if you need help, feel free to contact me. I’ll be happy to assist you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s