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Internet Filtering Software for Schools: Pros and Cons

Internet filtering software for schools in action

Kids are always looking for ways to play unblocked games at school, and that can be pretty tricky if internet filters have been installed. But preventing access to games is not the main reason that internet filtering software for schools is so popular. Many schools install internet filtering software in order to prevent students from accessing illegal or inappropriate content on school devices. Although the motivation is coming from a good place, even with the best of intentions, there are also negative effects to be considered.

Should schools have internet filters?

While it’s important to discuss whether internet filters are necessary or appropriate for schools, the reality is that the law requires them. The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires libraries and schools that serve children under 17 to block access to internet content which is “obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors”. Although that sounds like a great idea, it comes with some complications. Some schools filter out too many things for fear of filtering out too little. They are doing the right thing by trying to comply with the law, but there are reasons not to block out too much information as well.

Why are internet filters good?

Internet filters protect students who are not ready to take full responsibility for the information they access. Students might want to make the right choices about what they see, but they could end up on illegal or inappropriate sites by accident, and then they might have a difficult time making the decision to exit such pages. There is also the issue of students playing games on school computers when they are supposed to be in class. By blocking internet games, school can eliminate this distraction, or at least minimize it. Students will still look for ways to play unblocked games at school, of course, but it is worth at least trying to prevent them from spending all day playing on the screen, rather than learning and interacting with their friends.

What is wrong with internet filters?

There are a lot of downsides to internet filtering software for schools. First of all, sometimes the software blocks whole websites which include some educational content. This prevents students, and even teachers sometimes, from accessing educational tools and information that might be useful for projects and other assignments. While this might not seem like a big deal, because students could just access whatever they want on unblocked internet at home, there are actually some students whose only access to the internet comes from school devices. Some poor students don’t have internet access or the necessary devices at home and completely rely on school for access. If they can’t use certain tools, videos or websites that could give them important tools for school assignments, then they are at a disadvantage, when compared to students with their own devices and wireless access, which is constantly available at home.

Can students bypass school internet filters?

Today’s techie students definitely try to get around blocked internet. If they figure out how to bypass school internet filters, than there really is no point in having them. It is important to be aware that students will certainly try to find ways around any filter you put in. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that the filter you choose, should you choose to install filters on school devices, is as secure as possible. There are no guarantees, but if you are going to all the trouble of purchasing and installing the software, you want to make sure that your efforts have a real purpose.

No matter what your reasons are, choosing whether to install internet filters - or not - is a big decision. You want to make sure that you consider all the ramifications before you make a decision. Even if you do install internet filtering software for schools, there will always be students trying to bypass the school filter. Making an informed decision is important when it comes to the content and protections we expose our students to.

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