Web filtering is undoubtedly essential for school cyber security. However, when the service is not set up properly or too many blocked sections are too much, it starts to annoy both the staff and the kids. Let’s take a look at how to use web filtering to stay safe on the Internet.
Starting with the basics, it makes sense to remind yourself of what CIPA is The Internet Protection of Children Act, signed into law in 2000, is a document that governs the disclosure of inappropriate content to children. Specifically, the content that will be filtered or blocked is divided into 3 groups: pornography, child pornography, and harmful content for minors. To get funding, an educational institution must follow the guidelines of the law. The easiest way to comply with this is to purchase a web filtering solution Needless to say, K-12 schools must adhere to CIPA in order to use the e-rate discount, but schools and libraries that are not funded do not have this obligation.
Web filtering solutions work at a DNS level, blocking all unwanted websites: both viruses lurking around malicious websites and all kinds of explicit content. In short, the DNS system matches the IP address and the name of the websites that act as the phonebook of the Internet. However, DNS filtering categorizes a website to see if it belongs to a restricted group. This section is usually customizable: you choose what kind of sites you want to visit (or vice versa – you create a permission list, which contains only the resources you want your students, staff and guests to see and everything else is blocked). And leave it at that
Now, the key question here is – how can web filtering be harmful to kids? It protects them from anything their minds are not prepared for, it protects them from being hacked. However, sometimes blocking too much content can limit a child’s learning process. The CIPA explicitly states that content that is “harmful to minors” must be blocked, which is sometimes read by adults as “block everything”. Mary Beth Hartz, an art / technology teacher and technology coordinator at the Science Leadership Academy at Bieber, a public high school in West Philadelphia, shares an idea about content blocking for kids: “We limit their chances of success, exploration and discovery of their passion. Their strength and talent. “