The internet is a sanctuary of free knowledge and learning, as well as a den of villainy and deceit. It is both a force for good and for evil. Regardless of the dangers of the internet, it has become a tool for the day to day lives of adults. But due to its dangers - and for the schools to get needed funding - children in school are often deprived of the internet’s good content by schools blocking nearly all webcontent. Youtube, Facebook and other repositories are completely blocked. Some schools even resort to over-blocking in order to protect themselves from hackers, but this simply doesn’t work.
The fact is “over-blocking” and “filtering” are tactics that students can subvert. A recent study shows that 35% of students know how to bypass internet filters. These students are digital natives and know how to counteract overblocking with proxies and mirrors.
In reality, over-blocking and excessive web-filtering prevents students from accessing needed sources of information for their school work and education. Beyond the student’s use, overblocking also restricts educators from incorporating needed online materials into their curriculum such as educational Youtube videos or lectures and interviews via Skype.
A better solution
Rather than bulldozing internet access by overblocking internet content, what schools could do is teach internet safety, block overtly explicit sites and monitor internet activity for potential dangers. School monitoring software can see what sites are being visited, what services are being used and even what students are typing. Monitoring software today will send alerts to staff if certain phrases are used. This has multiple benefits. First, it can protect students from visiting dangerous sites - pornographic or otherwise. Second, it can monitor whether students are engaged in cyberbullying. Third, it can help teachers ascertain if certain students are at risk of developing eating disorders, depression or are thinking of suicide. Having this knowledge at hand helps teachers make good, informed decisions as to how to help and protect their students while still allowing them to learn and grow socially and intellectually on their own in a safe environment.
Rather than stifling children’s education, promote it safely with an internet monitoring system.