Parents' Guide to filters and the Internet

Multnomah County Library offers Internet access to all library users as part of our mission to provide resources that reflect the great diversity of interests and opinions in our community. Although the Internet offers access to many valuable sources of information, it also carries material that may be inaccurate, inappropriate or offensive to some individuals.

Library customers age 18 years and older can choose between filtered and unfiltered Internet access each time they use a library computer. In setting library policies for Internet use by children and teens, our goal is to provide age-appropriate access to information while ensuring that our libraries are safe and welcoming places for young people. Our policies also strongly support your right and responsibility as a parent to guide your child's use of library resources.

The library provides Internet access to young people

  • Teens (13-17 years) have the choice of filtered or unfiltered Internet access unless a parent or guardian designates filtered access.
  • Children (12 years and younger) have filtered Internet access unless a parent or guardian designates they can choose between filtered and unfiltered access.
  • Parents of newly registered children and teens are notified by mail about their options for making decisions about their children's level of Internet access.
  • Computers in the children's areas of Multnomah County libraries offer only filtered access.
  • Other public computers will continue to offer both filtered and unfiltered access, depending on the access permitted each individual library user in the age categories listed above.

You can change the level of Internet access your child or teen has at the library

Bring your child's library card or card number to the library and complete a form attesting that you are the child's parent or legal guardian and asking that we change your child's level of access. Your choice will become part of your child's electronic library record.

Here's how filters work

A filter is a software program that tries to limit or block access to websites based on content. The filter used by Multnomah County Library evaluates websites by looking for particular words, combinations of words and the context in which they are used. It then blocks access to sites that it determines may be inappropriate. When the filter is activated, library computers block material that the filtering software determines may be pornography.

Filtering software is imperfect. Material that should be blocked can and sometimes does slip through the filter. Filters can also over block, barring access to material that your child or teen may need for school or personal use. Filtering software is not a substitute for parental involvement in a child's use of the Internet, either in the library or at home.

If the filter blocks necessary information, your child should report the problem to a library staff member. The site will be reviewed to determine whether it should be unblocked. Staff can also help by providing information from the site or guiding your child to alternative resources.

You can change your mind about your child's Internet access

You can change your child's level of access at any time and may wish to reevaluate it as your child matures. When children turn 13, their Internet access level automatically changes to allow them to choose between filtered and unfiltered searches. If you prefer that your child continues to receive only filtered access, follow the procedure outlined above to change the level of access.

When teenagers turn 18, their level of access automatically changes to allow them to choose between filtered and unfiltered searches on a permanent basis, each time they use a library computer.

Filtering software cannot substitute for good judgment or critical thinking. With or without filters, you and your child need to communicate with one another about his or her online activities.

You can help your child make the best use of the Internet

We encourage you to talk with your child or teenager about your expectations and ground rules for going online. Discuss when, where and for how long your child may go online and what activities are allowed. We suggest that you post clear, easy-to-read "house rules" on or near your computer monitor at home and remind your child that these rules apply to Internet use at the public library as well. Whenever possible, supervise your child's online activity. If you are not familiar with computers and the Internet, we invite you to take a free class at the library. Then, sit down with your child. Have your child navigate the Internet and show you the websites he or she visits.