On the internet, information moves with lightning speed. Users can download content in seconds. Unfortunately, some of this content is obscene or harmful — and some of these users are children. Parents may supervise their children’s online activity at home. However, children and teens also use computers at schools and libraries. There, children may encounter less supervision — and access inappropriate content. Congress enacted the Children’s Internet Protection Act, or CIPA, to protect children from harmful online content. According to EdTech: Focus on K-12, 75% of American classrooms use desktop computers. Therefore, administrators need to fully understand the relationship between Children’s Internet Protection Act and school computers.
What Is CIPA?
Enacted in 2000, the Children’s Internet Protection Act limits children’s exposure to explicit content. CIPA mandates that schools and public libraries must filter content on computers that access the internet in order to be eligible for certain federal funds. To comply with CIPA, content filters must prohibit access to inappropriate content. This includes child pornography, obscene images and videos, or other material harmful to minors.
If schools and libraries don’t comply with CIPA, they won’t be eligible for the E-rate program. This program helps schools afford communications infrastructure and information technologies. Through the E-rate program, schools receive a 20% to 90% discount on telecommunications and internet access. For a complete list of services eligible under the E-rate program, click here.
School-Specific Requirements for CIPA
Two CIPA requirements relate only to schools. Firstly, to comply with CIPA, schools must go beyond content filters by monitoring students’ online behavior. Monitoring software like LearnSafe fits CIPA’s requirements for school internet safety policies. Digital monitoring software goes beyond simply filtering out content that might be harmful. Instead, monitoring software analyzes school computers for images, language, and behaviors that may indicate risk to a student or students. Therefore, monitoring software doesn’t just help a school comply with CIPA. It also helps schools identify and support vulnerable, at-risk students. Additionally, monitoring allows schools to preserve a safe environment by diffusing dangerous situations.
Secondly, CIPA requires schools to educate students about digital citizenship. For example, schools need to teach students how to behave kindly, appropriately and, most importantly, safely in various online communications. Additionally, schools need to adopt or develop anti-cyberbullying measures. These measures could take the form of social exercises, hands-on activities, videos and discussions, and student presentations. Lastly, schools need to teach students how to report and respond to cyberbullying.
Text by Nicole Anderson