"WWW parental responsibility" - a modest proposal

Ernest Perez perez at opac.osl.state.or.us
Thu Dec 4 23:44:13 EST 1997

A non-judgmental suggestion about WWW filtering that relates to the very
real problem of "How can I tell what are my kids doing out there on the
WWW when I'm not around?"

A friend asked me about what he could do for an occasional spot check to
make sure things weren't going on that shouldn't be.  "I really want to
be aware of what's happening, just, I don't know how to do it." I
thought for awhile, and thought of something simple. I suggested that he
use the "about:global" URL list display feature in Netscape to monitor
what the kids have been browsing recently. This same feature,
ironically, is often discussed here in light of compromising library
patron confidentiality).

I showed him how to do this. It's a no-brainer, you open a new page from
the File/Open blank or the Location URL blank...enter the phony URL of 
   about:global            (note the colon separator)
and you get a display the "Global History entries" log listing. 
***WARNING: this may be a BIG file, and will freeze up your monitor
until it's fully loaded. Not to worry, though. It'll be okay!

The Global History is a URL (live links) and Date/Time listing for every
URL that's been displayed in recent days. URLs are crypic short coded
addresses, okay, but you can pretty generally pick out some suggestion
of the page/site topic, and the context.  Mom or Dad doesn't have to be
the proverbial Rocket Scientist  to know that something may be amiss at
URLs like <http://www.kidsex.com/meetingplace.htm> or
<http://www.D-cups.com/amazons/xena.jpg>  [Made up, I dunno if they
really exist!]

"Recent days" is defined as the time you've set under Preferences, where
it says "Pages in history expire after __ days." (BTW, this listing is
where the program checks to be able to make recently visited links show
up as blue, or whatever color you've set, until they exceed that time

I suggest that you might recommend this simple approach if parents or
patrons appear to be worried or concerned about turning their kids loose
on the Internet. Sort of like one of those portable audio or TV camera
monitors that they use to keep an eye on the baby in another room.


Simple method for "keeping track of the kids on the Net":

1) Set the "history" preference to whatever's useful.
2) Use the about:global command periodically to display the record of
recent site browsing. 
3) Scan the URL list for questionable stuff, click on the link to look
for yourself, if you're suspicious.


Yeah, any knowledgeable kid CAN clear the global history, or set it to 0
(zero) days, or delete the global history file.  But that's not any
crisis, it's gonna be obvious. It's an opportunity for a little bit of
kid/parent dialog. :-) Probably time to talk about boundaries and
conditions. "I don't care if IE v. 99 is wonderful, we WILL use
Netscape;" "We WILL leave the History preference at 14 days." Seriously,
absence of the file, or date/times that end two weeks ago, are a pretty
obvious alert that something might be up.

--> Is this topic generally a community program opportunity that might
appeal to concerned parents? They after all do generally regard
librarians as responsible family advisors. Hmmm...syllabus
possibilities: What's not okay with the Web; Straight talk about porny
on the Web; Filtering out the Bad and the Ugly - commercial software;
The Librarian's Free Do-it-yourself Kid Monitor; etc., etc.

BTW, I don't use IE; I assume they have some similar feature. (If not,
tell Netscape to spread the word fast so they can recapture browser
market share.)


-ernest perez
Ernest Perez//Oregon State Library//perez at opac.state.or.us//503-378-4243
"Sometimes you have to grab the bull by the tail and face the
    - W.C. Fields

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