Advances in educational technology continue to provide countless new ways to learn. Yet with the internet comes content that is not appropriate for students. This is why the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires content filtering on school and library computers. However, relying on content filters alone can be dangerous and unwise. Though they are helpful, administrators must understand the limitations of content filtering.
Content Filters Can Block Learning Sites
Content filters are often overly restrictive so that they don’t accidentally let a harmful site through. This presents a new problem for students attempting to find useful resources and information. For example, a student can be researching breast cancer for a paper. The use of the word “breast” instantly blocks any informational site about that type of cancer and therefore limits the student’s learning ability.
Content Filters Don’t Teach Internet Responsibility
Sometimes content filters are seen as a one-and-done deal. Yet it is just as important to teach students digital citizenship and internet safety. Yes, a content filter may protect them at school, but that doesn’t mean they’re restricted in the same ways at home. Teaching students about digital citizenship prevents dangerous online activity both inside and outside of the classroom.
Students Find Ways Around Content Filters
Students might see content filters as a challenge and attempt to work around them. A 16-year-old teen found fame by disabling an $84 million dollar filter used to block pornography. It only took him 30 minutes to disable. Students with a good understanding of technology can bypass filters using proxy websites and other techniques.
Protect Students from the Limitations of Content Filtering
Creating and enforcing specific computer policies can also discourage internet-savvy students from testing the filter’s boundaries. Monitoring software like LearnSafe goes beyond CIPA to protect students and assure a safe learning environment. LearnSafe can also encourage and provide ways of teaching digital citizenship. This reinforces internet responsibility and provides students a new way of learning safe and respectful digital behavior. Additionally, LearnSafe’s customizable library allows educators to whitelist terms students may need for research.
Text by Kassie Roberts