The Burlington News
Thursday, January 15, 1998
page 1

Dad furious daughter saw erotica on the Net

photo caption: A Curious George book is a far cry from what Jenna Auger, five, and her father, David, found on an Internet terminal at Tansley Woods library.

by Carmela Fragomeni, cfragomeni@ham.southam.ca

David Auger is incensed his five-year-old daughter was exposed to a semi-nude picture of a woman from Penthouse magazine's Internet site while visiting the library. The image had been left on a computer screen.

He wants other Burlington parents to join his cry to have library officials eliminate this kind of display to young children.

David and Jenna Auger were looking at the books they had chosen at the Tansley Woods branch when he saw his daughter staring at something behind him.

He turned around to see the picture of a semi-naked woman.

Auger had seen three boys, between 12 and 14 years, at the Internet terminal a few minutes earlier, but hadn't taken much notice.

He immediately approached a librarian, but was dismayed at what he says was a cavalier response. He was told there is nothing the library can do, that it tried filters and they don't work.

Protection

"I'm staying away from the debate on whether this is pornography or not, or if there should be access to this kind of thing in a public library", Auger said. "But the library can't bring it (the Internet) in and then just abdicate any responsibility."

Auger is not trying to limit access to the Net, but says children need protection.

"I'm not a prude. Most people aren't. But like any tool, it (computers and the Net) needs to be controlled. You wouldn't send an eight-year-old into the garage to use a circular saw.

Auger believes there are other ways to address the issue, but was put off by the attitude of library officials he spoke to.

"They didn't seem too concerned", and suggested he fill out a comment card at the library.

"When someone brings up a legitimate concern, and you give the appearance you're concerned, but then dismiss it like that ... it shows such a cavalier attitude towards the public."

He was also directed to write a letter to the library board, but he has no confidence a letter would make any difference.

So, he's turning his attention to the community instead, hoping to enlist support from other parents through publicizing his ordeal.

"It seems like I have to generate some heat here to get something done, and it shouldn't be like that."

Chief Librarian Wendy Schick said there was a similar problem with some teenage boys "having great fun" with the Internet when Tansley first opened. "We saw it as mainly a behaviour problem."

The library looked into Internet filters, but Schick said it blocked out "all kinds of things", such as sources of information on breast cancer.

The library has a set of guidelines for Internet use at the terminals, and staff try to monitor the situation, she said. "When we find anybody using it inappropriately, they're asked to leave immediately."

But staff must be careful because "there's a fine line of privacy ... It's a difficult line to walk."

She'll look into Auger's complaint, but added, "I'm sure now that this has happened, staff will be more vigilant. There's a heightened awareness again."

The library is looking into ways to monitor unacceptable sites, she added.

The Penthouse image apparently left an impression with Jenna. She was concerned when her mother, Deborah, told her a photographer was coming to take a picture because of something that happened at the library.

"She asked if she and Daddy could wear clothes", said her mother. "She hadn't said anything about it up until now. Obviously, it was on her mind."


Copyright © 1998 by The Burlington News. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.