A Safety Net for the Internet: A Parent's Guide / Policy on Public Use of the Internet

What Parents Should Know

"Blogging," "friending," "tagging," and "Googling" are all part of the new language of cyberspace. These are verbs children use every day to talk about what they do online. It is important that parents understand this new language and provide their children with guidance in navigating the Internet. The Internet is a wonderful tool for children to do research, play games, and communicate with family and friends. Unfortunately, just as people can be rude, obnoxious, and exploitative in person, the anonymity of the Internet can sometimes amplify poor behavior and create an environment that is not always appropriate for children.

Get Involved and Set Rules

The best way to ensure your child's safety on the Internet is by getting involved and setting rules for your child's use of the Internet.

  • If you don't know how to access the Internet, ask at your local library to find out whether it offers free classes on how to use the Internet.
  • Spend time with your child when he/she is online.
  • Ask your child to share his/her blogs or online profiles with you.
  • Monitor the amount of time your child spends online. Excessive use of online services, especially late at night, may signal a potential problem. The same parenting skills that apply to the "real world" also apply online.
  • Set rules for your child's use of the Internet.

Tips for Parents

Here are some other things you can do to help keep your child safe online:

  • Privacy. Educate your child about the importance of keeping personal information private.
    • Discourage your child from giving out personal information such as his/her last name, age, home address, school name, or telephone number without your approval.
    • Discourage your child from sharing his/her online passwords with anyone other than you.
    • Familiarize yourself with how your child's information is being used online. Read the privacy policies of the websites your child visits regularly.
  • Social Networking. Encourage your child to be honest about his/her age when signing up for social networking sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Second Life, and MySpace) or blogs. These sites and services often have minimum age requirements and may not be appropriate for all children.
  • Posting Images/Videos. Discourage your child from posting photos or videos online without your approval.
  • Inappropriate Messages. Discourage your child from responding to messages that are suggestive, obscene, threatening, or otherwise inappropriate.
  • Meeting Strangers. Don't allow your child to arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone he/she met over the Internet without your approval. Remember that people online may not be who they say they are.
  • Other Tips:
    • Advertising and Inaccurate Information. Teach your child to be a critical consumer of information. Make sure your child knows that not everything he/she reads on the Internet is true.
    • Child Exploitation. If you or your child becomes aware of the transmission of child pornography, report it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678.
    • Communication. Talk with your child about his/her favorite websites, how much time he/she should spend online, what information he/she can share with online friends and what kinds of sites you want him/her to visit.

For more tips, please go to the following websites: ConnectSafely.org or fbi.gov.

NYPL's tips for children and teens can be found here.

Library Resources

The New York Public Library has created the following websites specifically for children and teens:

On-Lion: For Kids
Provides answers to questions about holidays, history, people, and places. Suggests great books for children of all ages to read and enjoy.

Provides a large selection of homework help databases containing millions of articles. Students can connect with tutors and librarians for live online homework help. Presented in cooperation with the Brooklyn Public library and Queens Library.


As required by the Children's Internet Protection Act, the Library has installed blocking/filtering technology on all computers at our branches with Internet access. Internet filtering software should not substitute for individual judgment and/or parental involvement and oversight. Filters are not a guarantee to block objectionable content. For further information, see The New York Public Library Policy on Public Use of the Internet below.

Last Updated November 20, 2008

Policy on Public Use of the Internet

To fulfill its mission of providing public access to information of all types in a wide range of formats, The New York Public Library provides access to Internet resources. The Internet offers access to many valuable local, national, and international sources of information. However, some information found on the Internet may be inaccurate, incomplete, dated, or offensive to some individuals. A good information consumer must evaluate the validity and appropriateness of information found.

Choosing and Evaluating Sources
The Internet is a series of communication linkages leading to a highly diverse array of information content. Library patrons use it at their own risk. In choosing sources to link to from its home pages, the Library follows its materials selection guidelines. Beyond this, the Library is not responsible for the content of the Internet, changes in content of the sources to which the Library home pages link, or for the content of sources accessed through secondary links. In an effort to assist its users, the Library has created websites for the general population, for teens, and for children to help guide them to sources that are accurate, complete, and current and that provide them with a wealth of information on the local, national, and global level. In addition, the Library provides training for members of the public to assist them in using the Internet in a safe, effective, and efficient manner. Finally, as set forth in greater detail below, in accordance with the Children's Internet Protection Act, the Library has implemented "technology protection measures" (i.e., software filtering) on all of its Internet-accessible computers.

As required by the Children's Internet Protection Act ("CIPA"), in order to remain eligible for certain federal funding, the Library has implemented software filtering on all of its Internet-accessible computer terminals. The software installed on Internet-accessible computers at the Library protects against access to visual depictions of obscenity, child pornography, and, in the case of persons under the age of 17 years, materials that are "harmful to minors." Users should be aware, however, that all currently available filtering software results in a degree of both "underblocking" (i.e., permitting access to certain material that falls within the foregoing categories) and "overblocking" (i.e., denying access to certain constitutionally protected material that does not fall within the foregoing categories). The Library has attempted to select filtering software that best complies with CIPA while providing Library users with the broadest possible access to constitutionally protected speech and information. The Library cannot and does not guarantee that the filtering software will block all obscenity, child pornography, or materials that are harmful to minors. Nor can the Library guarantee that the filtering software will not restrict access to sites that may have legitimate research or other value. In order to help address the overblocking problem and to enhance users' access to constitutionally protected speech and information, the Library requests that all users, both adults and minors, contact the Library at filtering@nypl.org (or at such other contact point as the Library shall designate from time to time) to request unblocking of an incorrectly blocked site. In addition, any user who is 17 years of age or older may disable the filtering software in order to obtain unfiltered Internet access for bona fide research or other lawful purpose by following the instructions provided on the computer screen or such instructions as the Library shall otherwise provide from time to time.

Access by Minors
Parents or legal guardians must assume responsibility for deciding which library resources are appropriate for their own children. Parents or legal guardians should guide their children in use of the Internet and inform them about materials they should not use. While the Library affirms and acknowledges the rights and responsibilities of parents and guardians to monitor and determine their children's access to Library materials and resources, including those available through the Internet, the Library has taken certain measures designed to assist in the safe and effective use of these resources by all minors.

  1. To address the issue of access by minors to inappropriate material on the Internet, including material that is harmful to minors, the Library:
    1. Develops and maintains special websites for children and teens;
    2. Develops and provides training programs on safe and effective Internet use;
    3. Encourages staff to guide minors away from materials that may be inappropriate;
    4. Distributes a publication entitled "A Safety Net for the Internet: A Parent's Guide"; and
    5. Has implemented filtering software as more fully described above.
  2. To address the issue of the safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms, and other forms of direct electronic communications, as well as the unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal identification information regarding minors, the Library provides training programs and also urges minors to keep in mind the following safety guidelines:
    1. Never give out identifying information such as home address, school name, or telephone number.
    2. Let parents or guardians decide whether personal information such as age, marital status, or financial information should be revealed.
    3. Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone via the computer without parents' or guardians' approval.
    4. Never respond to messages that are suggestive, obscene, threatening, or make one uncomfortable.
    5. Have parents or guardians report an incident to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678 if one becomes aware of the transmission of child pornography.
    6. Remember that people online may not be who they say they are.
    7. Remember that everything one reads may not be true.
  3. To address the issue of unauthorized access, including so-called "hacking," and other unlawful activities by minors online, minors and all other Library users are hereby advised that use of the Library's computers for hacking or any other unlawful activity is strictly prohibited.

Rules Governing Use

Due to the limited resources available for provision of public access to the Internet, the Library may set limits, for example, on use of large files of still or moving images or sound, or on downloading files in any medium. The Library also reserves the right to limit the amount of time an individual user can devote to a single session. The public must comply with all applicable federal, state, and local laws, including laws governing the transmission and dissemination of information while accessing the Internet, and with all Library policies and procedures. 

Users may not:

  • Use the network to make unauthorized entry into other computational, informational, or communication services or resources.
  • Distribute unsolicited advertising.
  • Invade the privacy of others.
  • Make any attempt to damage computer equipment or software.
  • Engage in any activity that is harassing or defamatory.
  • Use the Internet for any illegal activity, including violation of copyright or other rights of third parties, or in a manner inconsistent with the Library's tax-exempt status or its proper operation.

Violations may result in loss of access. Unlawful activities will be dealt with in an appropriate manner.

Public Users' Security

Users should be aware that the Internet is not a secure medium and that third parties may be able to obtain information regarding users' activities. However, The New York Public Library will not release information on the use of specific Internet resources by members of the public except as required by law or necessary for the proper operation of the Library.


The Library reserves the right to take appropriate action to ensure compliance with this policy.

Guidelines on Access to Information

The New York Public Library is guided by the following American Library Association statements on access to information: 

  • The Library Bill of Rights
  • Freedom to Read Statement
  • Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights: Free Access to Libraries for Minors and Access to Electronic Information Services and Resources

In general, the Library is guided by a commitment to access to information policies that provide appropriate protections to its patrons while being consistent with the Library's longstanding commitment to the principles of free expression as set forth in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Policy Subject to Revision

The Library's "Policy on Public Use of the Internet" may be revised from time to time.

As approved by the Board of Trustees on May 5, 2004.