School Internet Filters
Stifling student exploration and free speech, or protecting our children...where do you stand on the use of content filter software in our schools?
Please cast your vote after you've read the arguments.
You can also add to the debate by leaving a comment at the end of the page.
Young children need to be protected from the internet
Young children (by this I mean primary school age) should be protected from some aspects of the internet- since the internet is largely unpoliced and therefore near impossible to control, there are a lot of things that wouldn't be shown to children via other media (e.g. television) which would be easy for a child surfing the internet to stumble across.
Also, internet filters in primary schools are much more effective than those used in secondary schools, because primary school children don't yet know how to use proxy servers to fool internet filters (as most secondary school students do).
Secondary school students need to work at school rather than surf the internet
Children in secondary schools will generally have full access to a computer at home anyway, and will probably have already been exposed to things that would be unsuitable for young children (e.g. explicit language, videos on sites such as Youtube that could disturb young children), so exposing them to these things is not really the problem- students jn secondary schools will know how to use the internet better than primary school pupils, so won't accidentally stumble onto something explicit.
This doesn't mean, however, that I think that secondary schools should not use internet filters on their computers, because if older children/teenagers are using computers at school then they should be working, rather than perusing the internet- teenagers would also be more likely to look at inappropriate websites than primary school children (being a teenager myself, and after worked in a computer library for a year, I know that this is true from personal experience, having had to kick some of the younger kids- 13/14 years old- out of the library for watching porn on the computers).
I can't imagine how school internet filters would 'stifle student exploration'- usually the whole point of students being allowed onto the internet is for them to explore a given topic; the only sites that school computers block are ones that contain sex or violence, or social networking sites (which are generally blocked because of the danger of cyberbullying on them).
Although I agree that students should be working while at school and not surfing the Internet for inappropriate content, it is not true that the only sites schools block are sites that "contain sex or violence, or social networking sites". These are some of the main things that school filters will block, but there are many more sites that the filters block that do not have these types of contents. For example, many news sites (such as CNN) are blocked because they may contain amounts of violence in articles or pictures. Although they may have violence, generally they are reporting news and not set up to harm or hurt others. There are also word associated filters that could block educational sites. For example, if the word "bra" is blocked it could be impossible for a student or even teacher to access sites on Algebra because it contains the word "bra" in it. Therefore sites that may be very useful are unintentionally blocked because of the restrictions that would otherwise be of use.
I think there should be a filter because children have to be protected! Students are to nieve and need to be protected.
I will accept this argument when you learn how to spell properly. In addition, I find it highly unlikely you have spent much time around children lately. I've met 4th graders who crack "that's what she said" dirty jokes and understand exactly what they meant in the sexual sense.
Filters protect teachers as well students.
I like the idea that our schools have filters. I don't have to worry as much when students are surfing the net. I don't think most students are looking to go on bad sites and filters protect them. Most students are upset if they find an inappropriate site and parents would also be upset if the child went on an inappropriate site. In this respect teacher are safer or more protected from dealing with situations involving students viewing inappropriate sites.
I can understand being upset when I get on an inappropriate site. This is especially embarrassing if there is an adult nearby. However, I can just close out of the window or explain to the adult what happened. I don't need to sit there staring at the objectionable content getting upset. What is far more upsetting is seeing your website get blocked for unjust reasons. My favorite website is not a porn website. It doesn't give me instructions on how to build a bomb and it doesn't encourage violence or anything like that. Nevertheless, it's been blocked and the school won't unblock it. This upsets me far more than accidentally seeing objectionable material.
Filters can help students from being distracted in school. I think that a very broad filter on pornography, email, and chats could be a very good way of helping students. I know that it helps me feel more focused at work.
It can just be as much of a hindrance. The decision to block a website is not determined by a person, it's determined by a computer. As a result, it can make dumb mistakes and block websites that actually have useful information. This happened to me all the time when I was doing a project on Christmas in Greece. Either Greece has some pretty crazy Christmases, or the system blocks the wrong websites.
Secondary school students know how to fool school filters
Most secondary school pupils pay no attention to the internet filters on the school computers, because they all know how to use proxy sites, which allow the user to go on any website they choose, regardless of any internet filters.
Side opposition argues that because most-secondary school pupils are able to use proxies and get around school filters, the filters should not be used.
This argument falls down in a number of important regards. Firstly, that is not a problem with filtering, but with filtering done badly. There are technical means by which the proxy-problem can be resolved: known proxy sites can be banned, or the school can shift from using a domain-name or IP-list ban, to some sort of word-filter which would not be constrained.
Secondly, not all students are technically proficient. They, at least, would be protected.
Thirdly, by forcing students to go around a ban in order access a questionable website, you prevent them from doing so accidently.
Lastly, there is a powerful declarative effect when the school says that certain subjects are innappropriate. Before a student can access a forbidden website, he or she must first realize that the school-community considers that sort of behaviour to be bad.
Internet filters unintentionally impede ability to work
Although the use of internet filters helps deter exposure to inappropriate sites and prevent wasted school time, it also interferes with the students' ability to do research and work. In my personal experience, the filters currently in use are extremely restrictive and wide-reaching, where even the simplest google search can produce entirely restricted websites. This forces the students to attempt to either find their way around the filter or work with whatever info they can reach, thereby obstructing their progress in schoolwork.
It is true that filters can be too restrictive when students are trying to gain research information for a project.
In response to this point, side proposition will demonstrate that the system does not hinder school-work to the point where the benefits of the system are outweighed.
It is extremely unlikely that a filter will ban all sites with information on a topic. While it may require additional research, the marginal costs of this are outweighed by the protection the system provides.
Furthermore, most school filtering systems includev a mechanism by which a teacher can override the ban, allowing access to a improperly banned website. This allows research to continue in the event that a ban was applied improperly.
It is important that schools trust students
When a school installs a internet filtering, it is a not-so-subtle message that it does not believe its students to be capable of controlling themselves, or that there exists certain information which they cannot handle. Asides from being generally paternalistic, this attitude actually hinders the development of students.
In order for a student to develop any sort of self-control or self-confidence, he or she must be entrusted with the ability to make decisions for his or herself. A secondary-school must operate knowing that its rules cannot bind students forever, and so must move to make sure that students behaviours are motivated from internal commitment rather than external pressure. So long as the school denies students the oppurtunity to be distracted - and by extension, the oppurtunity to choose to focus - students cannot learn self-control.
The second message sent by internet filtering is that there exists content which students brains cannot handle, and that they are too immature to make decisions about this for themselves. Allowing students access to contraversial material is of fundemental importance to their ability to develop critical thinking. Without it, they have neither the impetous provided by the material, nor the confidence provided by the school's trust in their mental maturity. Even if a student would never search for illicit material, they are still reminded by the system that the school does not believe them to be capable of exercising discretion.
Whether or not a child can "handle" certain types of material, or if such a question is bogus to begin with, are decisions better left to individual children's parents.
The school may provide guidance to parents regarding such issues, but the amount of freedom given to the children is something the parents should decide. It is their responsibility. Allowing students all-access on the school Internet would basically undermine the efforts of those parents who deem it moral to protect their children from certain types of material. You may not agree with the parents' decisions but they are the parents, not you.
Therefore, all-access would send out a double-standard (they allow this at school, but not at home) and that would be just as counter-productive to the child's growth.
On the other hand if the school chooses to be conservative on the issue, it is less likely to be taken as a "double standard" because the school has a legitimate, utilitarian reason to do so. School is a place for work, not for surfing porn sites buying Harry Potter paraphernalia, conversing with potential pedophiles and viewing tutorials on rolling marijuana joints. Even companies keep tabs on their workers' browsing activity to ensure time is not being wasted. So the school is perfectly right to do the same. And the children with liberal parents can visit any site they want... at home.
Students Must be Trained About Safe Internet Usage
I agree that younger students must be protected from the unsafe element of the world wide web. However, rather than eliminate all questionable sites, I feel students need to be instructed on safe use of the internet. Part of this instruction must include how to recognize unsafe and inappropriate sites.
While such education is of utmost importance, it is very hard to convince young minds that any kind of material would be "a threat" to them. Most kids are not that aware of their own mental, emotional, and ethical development as human beings.
It is hard, for instance, to convince a young girl that watching pornographic sites is "bad" for her. Most girls already realize that when many girls turn 18 they sell their bodies and have their sex tapes put on the web to make easy money. This is true especially in bad economic times like this when high school grads have few prospects of finding a job. There is no point hiding from them what goes on because eventually they are going to find out anyway.
Then most youngsters will reason, since they already know about it, why shouldnt they watch the videos where they are actually having the sex? Educators are more aware than the children, that allowing such videos to be viewed, while not a direct threat, tends to normalize and encourage such behavior. Especially since the videos only show the pleasurable aspect of such behavior and not the negative consequences that often ensue. Thus the educators may rightly wish for some sort of control over browsing activity. The children will not see it that way.
Similarly, one may wish to keep an emotionally troubled male student from visiting sites that encourage violent behavior. However most boys, actually not even adults are emotionally self-aware enough to tell themselves: "this site includes the views of a radical terrorist and by reading this I may not immediately be convinced to go out and start shooting people but I am already in an emotionally downward spiral and this sort of material will only add to my angst and indeed may even push me over the edge by subtly convincing me that killing is a justifiable act."
If they are curious enough, they will look at it. And then they will want to taste it. Forbidden fruit.
Therefore, while good education on "safe browsing" is important, one must be not be naive about human nature and be realistic about its actual benefits.
Filters block eduational resources
studys show that mmost internet filter fail to block all inapropriate sites and block many apropriate sites. some filters even block sites that give direct information on topics required by state curiculem
Certain sites may be educational when used for the correct reasons
Sites like Youtube are filtered due to their uneducational content, however Youtube is also a very useful website to aid education when used with the correct intentions.
What do you think?