Apr 09, 2019

Young girl sitting at table looking at blocked website on tablet while doing homework

A school’s most important job, along with educating your kids, is protecting them while they are there. Which is why many schools choose to filter Internet content, by blocking certain websites and shielding students from harmful content.

With an endless supply of new websites, it can be difficult to keep up with the ones you’ll want to have blocked, but parental control software like Net Nanny can make this task easier for parents. Net Nanny aids parents in blocking websites and filters unblocked pages in real-time to sift out content that is unsuitable for your children.

For parents, knowing how to block websites, can be an important piece of keeping your kids safe online. The Internet is packed with websites that end up being highly inappropriate for kids even when they seem innocent to begin with. Blocking these websites is the first place many parents and schools start in an effort to make the Internet safer for kids.

According to a survey by the American Association of School Librarians, 98% of the nation’s schools filter the online content that’s available to students. For most schools, it’s a moral imperative, but then again, it’s also for monetary reasons.

The federal government’s E-rate program provides discounts for schools and libraries by purchasing certain communication services and products. As a condition for this federal funding, the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), passed by Congress in 2000, requires that K-12 schools and libraries in the U.S. use Internet filters and implement other measures to protect children from harmful online content.

The Argument for Schools Blocking Websites

Teachers are not always around in the computer labs or study halls to police online safety. Using school Internet filtering to block pornography and websites that are inappropriate provides a level of consistent online security that is not only nice to have, but also a necessity.

There are many debates about schools being too restrictive with online boundaries and limiting students’ access to research. But those criticisms are outweighed by the greater good of protecting them from harmful images and content. Without content filtering, for example, simple Google searches by students researching a subject can return obscene images in the thumbnail results— that’s not what we want our kids seeing in the classroom.

At the same time, schools need to teach kids how to use the Internet responsibly, and work with parents to plant seeds for kids to learn how to be safe online as they become more independent. As they learn which websites to visit and which to avoid, the importance of awareness becomes a key factor, learned at school and home.

Years ago, there was no debate about websites that should and shouldn’t be allowed in classrooms. Everyone was more concerned with which books students should be allowed to read. Now, Internet filtering is an ongoing issue, specifically between school administration, faculty and concerned parents.

According to a Project Tomorrow 2018 report, each year a greater number of students have access to devices:

    • 91% of high school students and 79% of middle school students have access to smartphones
    • 57% of elementary students have access to laptop and 50% report having access to a smartphone
    • 68% of students say they have periodic access to devices during class

These numbers will continue to increase throughout the years and eventually all schools will go paperless and utilize technology in the classroom full time.

How Website Blocking Keeps Students Safe

Safety is the number one priority of school systems and this applies not only to the time kids spend in school, but also their time spent online. There are many dangers on social media that we want to protect our children from such as adult content, Internet strangers, and more.

Do we want our children exposed to mature material? Do we want our children corresponding with strangers or exposed to online predators? Are we ensuring that our child’s privacy is protected? These are valid concerns that school administrators must take into account when deciding to allow students to access the Internet.

Another issue to consider is, can we guarantee that the students will make good ethical choices on social media? Some adolescents today are engaging in inappropriate and illegal behaviors on social media. Some of these acts include: sexting, hacking into networks, stealing passwords, creating fake accounts, and much more.

Many of these behaviors can lead to school suspensions, expulsions, and even criminal charges. Schools today are spending countless hours dealing with these new social media issues instead of focusing time and energy on academics and school priorities. And the question that remains is, who should be held accountable? The student who accesses the websites that are banned from school or the school for not having adequate security?

Each year more and more technology is incorporated into the classroom meaning that it is even more vital to put more effort into education and teaching responsible digital citizenship among students. Educating kids and teens on the pros and cons of social media, dangers or threats that might be found online, and other issues is a positive first step towards finding a solution.

Schools must also have policies in place, specifically geared at addressing social media, Internet and technology usage, and cyber bullying. If the policies are specific, outlining which websites and behaviors will and will not be tolerated, schools can confidently stand behind their disciplinary practices.

Why Parents Should Block Websites at Home

It only follows logically that: website blocking should be just as vigilant at home. Ideally throughout a child’s development, the school, and parents work hand-in-hand to keep children safe. You might be asking, “Is it really necessary?” Take a minute to think about the vast sea of Internet content today— would you want your kids to see everything and anything that’s available at such a young age?

Websites that are off-limits at school should also be out of bounds at home. In fact, the real teaching about online safety and discipline for your kids should probably start at home, with school rules reinforcing the importance of it. Using a digital family contract can be beneficial for families and parental controls, like Net Nanny, makes it easy for parents to enforce house rules for Internet use. Since Net Nanny is downloaded onto each device, your rules can travel whenever and wherever they are using the device.

Parents need to be encouraged to be educated just as much as the students. Net Nanny offers families Internet filtering and content monitoring solutions for personal devices that can be used at both home and school. Remote access and alerts and reporting mean that parents can stay up-to-date, even with everyone on-the-go. Keeping your kids safe at all times is always a priority and we must be sure to not overlook website blocking and Internet safety.

Dan Dunkin

Dan Dunkin is a professional writer and devoted father to 2 teenagers. Dan has a 30 year newspaper career winning numerous awards covering sports and related topics.