This week in class, we read articles about Internet Filters and protecting children on the internet in schools. One article that caught my attention was, “Do You Want Kids to be Safe Online? Loosen Those Filters!” by Mary Ann Bell. She raises some really good issues surrounding internet filters and says that internet filters are making kids less safe. She says that internet filters are “restrictive overkill”.
And I would have to agree.
One of the issues that she addressed, that concerned me greatly, was that school educators and administrators are not allowed to access the questionable sites at school, and override the filters. If a student approaches a teacher and says that they are being bullied on the internet, they are concerned about a fellow student, or there is something that is offensive, and the teacher cannot access that material, how can they help? This is overkill that adults cannot access the content to fix the problem, or talk with the student about it. We should be creating an environment where students can ask questions or show something on a site that is bothering them or that they are concerned about. By not being able to access the site, and go over it with the student, realistic conversations about issues students face on the internet are eliminated. The adult goes home to look at it, the student goes home to deal with the problem, but the moment for an educational opportunity and a conversation could be lost.
I wouldn’t call myself “anti-filter” but at the same time, I do think they have a place. Adults can’t monitor students all of the time. If there is one teacher in a class of 25 students, it is unrealistic that the teacher would be able to monitor everyone’s behavior. Some students will access a site and it could greatly jeopardize their safety.
However, even with the filters, there is all this secrecy surrounding these sites. All students hear is that it’s bad, inappropriate or doesn’t have good information. We should be teaching students why it’s bad. If it’s inappropriate, how would you handle that situation? Report it to a teacher, parent or adult you trust. Walk them through the best, and safest way to deal with a problem. If it’s not good information, what makes it bad? What is good information?
It’s overkill to just expect filters to do the job of educators. The bottom line is that students are people. They can question information, they can use judgement and common sense. But they can’t do any of these things without the proper education and knowledge surrounding these topics.