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Promoting Online Safety: The Home-School Partnership

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Kaiser Family Foundation Study Examines How School Filters Impact on Access to Health Information

In a review of the Internet filtering products most commonly used by schools, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation said December 10 that the products did not significantly impede access to online health information, but only when not set at their most restrictive levels.

The study, conducted by Dr. Caroline Richardson of the University of Michigan Medical School and Dr. Paul Resnick of the university's School of Information, involved online searches of 24 health topics and six pornographic terms using six different search engines. The 3,000 health sites and 500 pornography sites that were retrieved through the searches were then tested against six common filters: 8e6, CyberPatrol, N2H2, SmartFilter, Symantec and Websense.

At the least restrictive level, the study found that the filters incorrectly blocked an average of just 1.4 percent of health sites. However, when filters were configured at their most restrictive level, they blocked 24 percent of health sites. The study found that the amount of pornographic content that was blocked was found to increase only marginally, from 87 percent when set at the least restrictive configuration to 91 percent when set at the most restrictive. The study's authors consulted with 20 school districts and libraries around the country to discuss how they were configuring their filters.

The study, "See No Evil: How Internet Filters Affect the Search for Online Health Information," will be published in the December 11, 2002 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. A copy of the study is available here.

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