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Can web filtering really harm children?

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Web filtering protects students from harmful content, but blocking too much might limit the the learning process

Web filtering is undoubtedly a must when it comes to school cybersecurity. However, if the service is configured incorrectly or the number of blocked categories is too large, it starts to annoy both staff and children. Let’s see how to use web filtering to stay safe online and make the most of it.

Starting with the basics, it makes sense to remind yourself what CIPA is. The Law on the Protection of Children on the Internet, signed in 2000, is a document that regulates the distribution of obscene content for children. To be precise, content that is subject to filtering or blocking is divided into 3 groups: obscenity, child pornography and content that is harmful to minors. To receive funding, an educational institution must follow the recommendations of the act. The easiest way to do this is to purchase a web filtering solution. Needless to say, K-12 schools must meet CIPA requirements to take advantage of E-Rate discounts, but those schools and libraries that do not receive funding do not have this obligation.

Web filtering solutions work at the DNS level, blocking all unwanted websites: both malicious with viruses and all sorts of explicit content. In a nutshell, the DNS system compares the IP addresses and names of websites that work as an Internet phonebook. DNS filtering, however, also classifies a website to find out if it belongs to any restricted groups. This part is usually customizable: you choose what type of sites you want to disappear (or vice versa – you create a list of permissions that contains only those resources that you want your students, staff and guests to see, and everything else is blocked), and leave yes.

Here’s the main question – how can web filtering be harmful to children? It protects them from things their minds are not ready for, saves them from hacking. However, sometimes blocking too much content can be limiting training process. CIPA clearly states that content that is “harmful to minors” should be blocked, which is sometimes seen as “blocking everything” by adults. Mary Beth Hertz, Professor of Arts and Technology and Technology Coordinator at the Academy of Scientific Leadership in Bieber, a public high school in West Philadelphia, shared an opinion about blocking content for children: “We limit their opportunities to succeed, explore their hobbies and reveal their strengths and talents.”

This part depends on the web filtering provider chosen by the school, university, library or any educational institution. The flexibility of blocked categories, the unlimited number of permission and denial lists, artificial intelligence and machine learning used for categorization are all characteristics of a compatible provider for the education sector. A reliable provider will not over-filter content, but will give its customers plenty of room to customize their own vision of what should and should not be blocked.

Contrary to popular belief, cybersecurity, even on child devices, is very important in the age of cybercrime and cybercrime. Add to that easy access to pornography and other open resources, and you’ll have a clean canvas of baby phyche that needs to be spoiled. Both opinions have a right to exist, both look fair. The key to teaching children hygiene online is to balance between them. CIPA leaves a lot of room for interpretation, so it’s important not to go to extremes and be moderate. And look for a web filtering provider that gives you that opportunity.

As an alternative to the conclusion, here is a checklist of features to look for in a web filtering provider:

-Allow list only (allow access only to websites approved by administrators);
-AI and machine learning used by the provider (to make sure the service is flexible and adaptable);
-Can be configured on a router (to control the entire network);
-Can be configured on devices (to monitor specific devices);
-Large database (about 100 million);
-Safe search and restricted mode for YouTube;
– Remote control functions (for deployment in minutes and activity control);
-All resources are grouped into categories (to configure filtering policies);
-Statistics and journals to monitor student activity);
– Fully compatible with CIPA (to avoid wasting time on additional checks).

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