The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires school districts to monitor and supervise technology use by students and staff. In the classroom, teachers often take on part of this responsibility through active monitoring of student computer screens. However, distance learning creates a problem. If students are not physically present in the classroom, teachers cannot monitor their screens. Nonetheless, the legal responsibility to monitor technology use remains. CIPA also requires districts to install filters on school computers. These filters block content that’s “harmful to minors,” including pornography and content containing obscenities. But tech-savvy students bypass internet filters on school computers easily. That’s especially true if they’re learning from home and not under a teacher’s watchful eye. In fact, according to a CNN survey, over seventy percent of students report hiding their online activity from their parents. Additionally, filters don’t always catch harmful electronic communications from student to student or staff to student. In order to fully protect students during distance learning, schools must install monitoring software in addition to filters.
How Students Learn to Bypass Internet Filters on School Computers
It’s easy for students to learn how to get around internet protocols. All they have to do is search for answers online. A simple Google search provides many of the answers they seek. There are even websites specifically dedicated to helping students get around these filters. Even if the school installs multiple filters, students easily find proxies and firewalls.
Installing a VPN
Many students install a VPN (virtual private network) app on their phones, tablets, and laptops. VPNs hide your IP address and location. They also scramble data to sneak past filters. Even on campus, VPNs present a danger. They allow students to access apps the school’s wifi router normally prohibits. Therefore, students can check social media while still connected to the school’s wifi. And VPNs pose a danger to distance learning, too. They make it difficult to secure a host and authorize a connection.
Like a VPN, Smart DNS allows students to connect to Netflix and other streaming services. Smart DNS permits access to videos. This means students could stream explicit content on campus.
Even on school computers, students can still bypass internet protocols on campus. A student can simply search for “proxy websites.” Proxies permit students to hide what they’re viewing from teachers. These websites act as a wall against in-person monitoring by pulling up a temporary copy of another page.
Students can bypass school filters by logging into nearby public Wi-Fi services. Cellular “hot-spots” also allow students to access content school filters would block. And, if a student shares their hot spot, their friends will also be able to bypass protocols. Distance learners using their home’s Wi-Fi have full access to potentially harmful content.
In order to fully comply with CIPA, it’s essential that districts install monitoring software on school computers. Monitoring software like LearnSafe detects risky behavior both online and offline. LearnSafe also alerts administrators, allowing them to intervene before harm is done. LearnSafe goes beyond filtering to detect harmful student-to-student and staff-to-student interactions. Moreover, LearnSafe’s customizable library can detect attempts to bypass filters. This allows schools to prevent risky behavior before harm is done.