There are over one billion web sites on the Internet, with thousands of pages being added every day. So how are you going to find web sites that are safe to use in your classroom? If you are lucky enough to have access to the Internet in the classroom, there are a number of strategies that you can use to provide a safe surfing environment for students.
Look for web sites that have used a rating service to evaluate the appropriateness of their content. Examples are the Internet Content Rating Association (www.icra.org). If a site has been rated, the web manager will often place a graphic to indicate it. Content is always changing, so a visual check of the web site is still important. Another strategy is to use a safe surf program.
Programs such as Net Nanny (www.netnanny.com) and Surf Monkey (www.surfmonkey.com) claim – not guarantee – to provide a safe Internet environment for children. Safe surf programs filter out web sites that contain objectionable material through keywords. The same type of words you would enter into a search engine. The software searches through the content of a web page before the web surfer has access to it. The problem with these programs is topics may have an obscene homonym that was missed by the filter. Observing students while they use these programs is still a necessity.
The last strategy is to upload websites on to your computer. If you are planning to have your students do research on a topic, find a web site that contains the information they will use and save it on your hard drive. In your web browser, either Netscape or Explorer, click File, then Save As and place the web page in a folder with that topic’s name. When students are ready to do their research, just open the topic folder in your web browser, click File, then Open and select the topic folder. If you have uploaded a number of links from the website, it should give the appearance of real time surfing without the worry of accessing inappropriate material. Simply delete the folder after the topic is finished to regain hard drive space.
The Internet provides an excellent way for teachers to reinforce the lessons that they are doing in the classroom. Students who enjoy a web site at school will use it again at home, where hopefully their parents are using safe surfing practices too.