While many Americans love TV shows depicting the gruesome ins-and-outs of crime fighting, such as "Law and Order" or "Dexter," there seems to be one overriding consensus about the content features on those shows - it's not for kids. So imagine the shock of some Tampa Bay parents when their children came home spouting details about murder, and with ready access to autopsy photos.
According to Tampa Bay Online, the culprit for this mass epidemic of children being exposed to highly adult material is a website called myOn, which purports to offer a "virtual library" experience in lieu of a visit to a physical library. Along with offering books or information, myOn includes navigational tools that students can use to browse by interest. So far, so harmless, but the absence of a filtering mechanism which can keep kids away from age-inappropriate material has some parents crying foul. After all, one wouldn't want a seven-year-old who just wanted to look up technology learning instead about autopsy procedure, and being privy to grisly photos involved in the subject.
As one parent put it, "Are we teaching our children to be medical examiners in elementary school? I don't think so."
The response of school district officials has been, understandably, somewhat mixed. Some teachers cite concerns about intellectual freedom, and point out that some children want to dissect a frog at early ages, so dissecting a human corpse might not be that far off. Others defend myOn for offering the same information that would be available in your standard order public library, just with fewer of the natural barriers to entry involved in such places. Still others admit that the content is inappropriate for children, but are uneasy about how to go about the process of censoring the material:
"I don't want this to outweigh the positive information here," one teacher said. "And that's that 2,200 titles are in the homes of Hillsborough County school kids. These include houses that don't have many books now."
Tampa Bay Online also quotes myOn officials, who defend the product by pointing out that much of the material does come with grade level guidelines.