Technology has transformed education. Students have access to an endless supply of information, and teachers can leverage online tools to enhance lessons in every subject. However, there are drawbacks to allowing students unlimited use of the web through school-supplied desktops, laptops, and mobile devices.
Here are some facts that you need to keep in mind in order to make smart decisions about web filtering at school.
Web filtering at schools… and the law
When internet access started to become mainstream, schools were excited to have new research options to offer their students. Unfortunately, parents and teachers soon noticed a significant problem:
Unrestricted web-based technology made it possible for children to be exposed to obscene and dangerous content. Many cybercriminals took to opportunity to start collecting confidential data on school-based internet users. In addition, some of the more technologically-savvy students leveraged their school-based web access to partake in illegal hacking.
Congress developed a comprehensive response to these concerns by passing the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in 2000. This law created requirements for web filtering at schools in exchange for participation in the E-rate program. The E-rate program gives educational institutions discounts on web-based technology.
If you choose to move forward with web filtering at schools, there are minimum standards you must meet to comply with CIPA. The most critical are as follows:
- You must provide notice and hold at least one public hearing to discuss implementation of web filtering at schools.
- You must also create an internet safety policy that covers monitoring the online activity of minors, access to inappropriate websites, safe use of email and other forms of electronic communication, illegal activity, and unauthorized collection and use of students’ personal information.
- Additionally, you must offer education for students regarding appropriate online behavior and online safety.
- You must choose software that can block access to obscene images, child pornography, and anything else considered harmful to minors.
It’s important to note that adult staff members are permitted to override web filtering at schools. Sometimes, they’ll need to so that they can conduct legitimate research or complete other appropriate activities.
Choosing software for web filtering at schools
A variety of technology vendors design and implement software for web filtering at schools. As a result, the specific results of a filter can vary. The biggest drawback? Web filters can sometimes block legitimate sources of information, causing problems down the line. For example, students may wish to research breast cancer, but they are unable to access the resources they need because the filter blocks all mentions of the word “breast”.
When choosing a provider and specific software for web filtering at schools, convenience and reliability are paramount. Administrators must install, configure, and maintain the software with ease. Additionally, they should have the ability to easily adjust the configurations as needed.
Most web filtering at schools functions through a combination of category and keyword filters. Ideally, you will be able to fine-tune these as necessary. Naturally, you’ll base this on your audience and the needs of your student population. Consider software that offers multiple access levels, so that teachers can conduct appropriate research without going through a lot of digital red tape.
Finding a school security partner
We’re experienced in scholastic IT solutions that take the burden of selecting, installing, and maintaining web filters out of your hands. Our experts specialize in full-service IT support, so that you can focus on your primary role as an educator.
Want to learn more? Reach out to us – we’re happy to answer your questions.