BAMBERG, Germany — A tag team effort consisting of Internet filtering and monitoring by teachers is helping to keep Department of Defense Dependents Schools pupils away from the seedy side of cyberspace.

The Websense program allows schools to use filters to block sites that contain pornography, sadistic material, nudity, gambling, shopping and known hacker sites, according to Lenny Dobson, chief of Information Technology for DODDS-Europe.

Another program blocks pupils from entering chat rooms, he said.

“We can filter off certain materials, or block certain words,” Dobson said.

“You have to be careful. In an education environment, where students have to do a lot of research, over-filtering would prevent them from doing that research.”

If a Web site blocked by the filter software is needed for research, teachers can request that it be reviewed and unblocked, Dobson said.

Likewise, if a pupil happens upon a site that is inappropriate and should be blocked, Dobson can manually block it.

“It would be very difficult to filter all the different inappropriate Web sites,” Dobson said.

Parrish Worrell, educational technologist at Bamberg Elementary School, said the filters have been effective in limiting children’s searches to pages that are pertinent to the research they are doing.

“No filter is perfect, but the filters we use are pretty solid,” he said. “I haven’t heard of any kid who was able to sneak around it.”

All pupils above the third grade and staff members have user names and passwords, and the Websense software creates a log that can show at any given time where a user went on the Internet, Dobson said.

The pupils and their parents also have to read and sign a computer use agreement.

“If a child violates that agreement, there could be administrative action and the student could be suspended from using the Internet for a couple of days,” Dobson said. “Kids are curious, and they are always going to use their minds to look into things they don’t know about. Usually, it’s just a matter of sitting them down and talking to them about what they did.”

An important aid to the Internet filters is ensuring that a teacher is present when kids surf the Web, Worrell said.

“The real safety net is having a teacher in the room monitoring the use,” Worrell said, adding that parents should also monitor children’s Internet activity at home. “I’ve got high school kids, and I still monitor their Internet use. I’m not standing over their shoulder the whole time, but I do know when they are on the Internet.

“If the teacher is in the room, even if they aren’t looking over the student’s shoulder, there is a chance they will look over and see the student’s doing something they are not supposed to. That is a real deterrent.”

In addition to the filters and other measures to keep children away from inappropriate Web sites, DODDS-Europe also has implemented a new curriculum from the nonprofit organization i-SAFE America that teaches pupils about Internet etiquette and ethics and such safety concerns as cyber predators, identity theft and computer viruses. Teachers in DODDS-Europe are expected to complete training on the new curriculum by May, according to Frank O’Gara, DODDS-Europe spokesman.

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