In a recent national survey of 1,900 parents, 92 percent said that school computers and networks should have filtering software to block children’s access to pornography. Seventy-nine percent of respondents said that access to hate speech should be blocked as well.

In both cases, respondents’ support for filters was well above their support for outright bans of the same activity (74 percent favored banning online pornography, and 75 percent supported banning hate speech).

The survey was conducted by the University of Wisconsin at Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications for the Digital Media Forum, a consortium of six public interest and consumer groups interested in media policy. One of the survey directors said parents don’t seem to see filters as censorship of their children, but rather as a protective device.

However, parents’ desire for filtering runs strongly counter to the opposition expressed by many key education associations. These groups continue to oppose potential federal regulations requiring them to install filtering software. School associations and civil libertarians do not object to individual schools or districts installing filtering software, but they oppose a federal—and unfunded—mandate.

Although concern about access to unacceptable web sites is high, the same survey found strong support for the use of the internet in education. In the survey, 86 percent of respondents said the internet can help their children learn more, and 95 percent said the internet helps children develop work-related skills. Respondents also support federal programs, such as the eRate, that are wiring schools and the rising number of teacher-training programs backed by federal funding.