Parents seek web filter to keep porn off kids' library computers - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Parents seek web filter to keep porn off children's library computers

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -

Parents are calling into question what children are exposed to at public libraries. Specifically -- access to pornography on library computers.

Wednesday evening, a group of Cedar Falls parents spoke out at the Library Board of Directors meeting. They're calling for the library to install internet filters on computers used primarily by children.

Alice Gabel is spearheading the cause. She considers the Cedar Falls library a safe place for her two young kids. That's why, a few weeks ago, she was shocked when she glanced at a computer in the youth department to see an explicit image glaring back at her on the screen.

"I was kind of panicking. And I walked straight to a staff member and said -- there's pornography on the computer screen! Why is there pornography on the computer screen?" she recalled.

The staff member immediately closed the window, but in those moments, Gabel realized her kids were not as safe as she once thought.

"I can't even tell you how glad I was that it was just me and not my children that saw that," she said.

"In the six years that I've been here, I can think of just two or three instances when there was something on a screen that should not have been," library director Sheryl McGovern said.

McGovern is clear -- the library is not a babysitter, and parents need to keep an eye on their kids. But there are measures in place to prevent children in the youth area from viewing inappropriate content online. Kids ten and younger need a parent with them, and staff are keeping an eye the kids.

However, some parents would like to see those policies go even further.

"We need filters. That's the only thing that blocks all danger and inappropriate content," Gabel said.

McGovern doesn't agree filters are the answer.

"There is not a filter invented that only blocks the bad, and always allows the good information to come through," McGovern said.

There are several active court cases debating the legality of internet filters at the public library. Opponents say, filters go against the First Amendment right to dissemination of information. As McGovern puts it, it's not a city's place to decide what constitutes bad or good material, unless it becomes disruptive.

"People are not just allowed to look at anything. We do have the right as staff to limit the images that they view," McGovern said.

Parents are only asking for filters on computers located in the kids area. They believe, that's not a violation of the constitution -- it's a necessary measure to protect a child's innocence.

"It's our nature to protect them. And we expect this place, a place for children, to be safe," Gabel added.

The parents in favor of purchasing web filters will make a formal presentation at next month's Board of Directors meeting. From there, it's in the board's hands to decide whether to pursue a policy change regarding internet filters.

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