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Re: [vox][OT response] Article: A parent's guide to Linux Webfiltering
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Re: [vox][OT response] Article: A parent's guide to Linux Webfiltering

On Thu, Jul 01, 2004 at 12:21:30PM -0700, Dave Margolis wrote:
> Bill Kendrick wrote:
> > Noticed this article over at NewsForge.  Looks neat, and is written in
> > a down-to-Earth fashin, from the first few paragraphs I've read so far...
> > 
> >   A parent's guide to Linux Web filtering
> >   By: Joe Bolin
> > 
> >   http://software.newsforge.com/software/04/06/23/1521209.shtml
> Interesting stuff.  Cool use of Squid.  I'll have to look into Dan's 
> Guardian...
> I don't want to start a nasty debate, but as a parent, I'm just throwing 
> some questions I have about Web filtering in general.
> My sons are 6 and 1, so I'm obviously not too worried yet.  For this 
> reason, I might not be truly qualified to comment on Web filtering.
> Does anybody see the real value in Web filtering?

I believe its value is primarily in preventing accidental
exposure. But my experience has generally been that the web filters
block useful sites that are sometimes needed; and Mozilla's wondrous
pop-up blocking facility deals with this fairly effectively anyway.

> 1. Sure I can filter stuff at home, but I can't filter what my son sees at 
> a friend's house.  It would be nice to say I could have better control 
> over how responsible the other kid's parents were, but we know that's not 
> possible.  We're already dealing with this type of thing with cartoons. 
> We try not to let our son watch violent cartoons, but his friends parents 
> let their kids watch Power Rangers and Yugio and all that stuff.  I could 
> get all uptight about that and try to talk to the parents, or I could just 
> communicate with my son about violence and the potential effects of what 
> he watches, which is my preference.

A well-worn argument. This doesn't necessarily mean that you should
throw out the idea of accountability at home, just because you can't
control it abroad. I like the idea of a good-faith freedom
arrangement: if your child demonstrates responsibility, increase the
amount of freedom the child has (in visiting friends, etc.).  If you
find that responsibility is not being practiced outside of the home
(in any area), then you can further restrict how much time they spend
outside the home.

> 2. My parent's couldn't stop me from stealing Playboy and Hustler from 
> Tower books when I was 13 (or wait, maybe that was last week!) :-)
> Honestly, the more you try to suppress, the more you flame their curiosity.

I have often found that (in any area) this is the result of supression
primarily when the child does not understand the reasons for the
supression. If you talk regularly with your children about /exactly/
why you desire that they avoid such materials, and your reasons make
sense, then they will have far less of a desire to disobey. Resist the
temptation to just parrot answers you've heard other people give: be
intelligent in your arguments, and I believe they will respect you for

It could also be beneficial to explicitly make available resources
that will satisfy whatever curiousities they may have, but that are
substantially healthier. Find materials that talk frankly about sex
and sexuality, and that reflect the values you wish to pass on to your
children, and make it clear that you are available at any time for
honest discussion on the matter (but only do this if you can really
bring yourself to talk comfortably on the subject: if you are
embarrassed by sex talk, then you probably haven't really spent enough
time discussing it with your/self/). When I was a kid, I certainly
searched out pornography; but in reality I really just sought out
/anything/ that had /anything/ to do with sex. Maybe curiosity was the
main drive...

> 3. I expect my son to be pretty technically astute (he already is, and 
> we've never pushed it on him).  If my future teenage son hacks my content 
> filter to see some boobies, I'm gonna give him a high-five.

You don't even have to be very astute to hack most filters. I really
don't think they'll present much of an obstacle for him.

> 4. What about electronic freedom and all that?  Doesn't content filtering 
> (even for porn) seem to contrast a strong belief in OSS and organizations 
> like the FSF and EFF?

I've never believed that the Bill of Rights applies unrestricted to
children. Parents frequently exercise censor's rights to restrict not
only what their children speak or express (or more
appropriately, /how/ they express themselves), but what is expressed
to them. Children are psychologically vulnerable in ways that the
typical adult is not, and this merits protection.

Parenthood should never be a democracy: it's a biarchy (assuming two
> 5. How about the whole violence vs. nudity thing.  I'm one of those 
> liberal type fellas who think that our society's acceptance of violence in 
> popular culture but shunning of nudity, sex, etc. is a bad thing.  That's 
> a whole different debate though, so I'll leave that one alone.

In that case, what do you have against Playboy? I don't recall
violence in most "soft porn"... I'm not saying Playboy is okay, I'm
saying be sure that your mores are consistent.

I believe that our society in general falls into either of two
extremes: either over-shunning nudity and sex, or over-permissive of
it. Nudity and sex are ideas that should have full freedoms,
*provided* that they are in their natural contexts. I don't believe
that everyone should go everywhere nude, though: clothes are there for
a reason.

> 6. False positives?  I read something recently about a girl in junior high 
> who couldn't do research on breast cancer because she kept getting 
> blocked.  An extreme case maybe, but still a reality.  I had a friend who 
> worked in the governor's office (under Grey) and every other link I sent 
> her got blocked by their "appropriate use" filter.  I promise I wasn't 
> sending her porn.

I always got scores of false positives with whatever my Dad
used. That's why I hacked ours... I had to get onto a site to get my
homework done.

> Anyway, I plan on being involved on my sons' use of the internet as much 
> as possible.  I don't plan on being too upset if they are curious about 
> sex, drugs, or anything else that I was curious about.  My parents were 
> available, but pretty laissez faire.  I turned out all right.

That is by far the best policy, IMO.

BTW, my kids are 4 and 1 1/2, so I'm in less of a position (thus far)
than you are to comment, but hey...

However, I am the oldest of 8 kids, the youngest of which is still ~7
years old...

Micah J. Cowan
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