Due to the fact that educational bodies like a school will not qualify for E-rate discounts if they fail to adhere to the stipulations of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), content filtering is a very important tool to configure.
Following the enactment of CIPA in the year 2000 special protections were put in place to safeguard minors when they are using the Internet at their school. It became a requirement for content filters to be put in place to stop any possible access of harmful material. Websites from malicious and inappropriate website categories including pornographic and violance must be blocked or schools face the loss of Federal and State-funding.
Nowadays the vast majority of schools provide wireless Internet access for attending students. Thi means that those attending class could log on and browse the Internet with their own devices. Due to this is it important that the WIFI network has web content filtering in place. If this is not so then there is a strong possibility that inappropriate websites, videos and other material will be viewed using your network. In addition to being in breach of CIPA this will also mean that your network is very likely to fall victim to cybercriminals with a well-placed hacking attack.
Another requirement of CIPA is that an audit trail of Internet browsing be maintained. This does not mean that individual log in sessions are assigned to users and recorded but that an overall anonymous tracking of websites visited is available to be audited by the relevant authorities. Alerts should be in place to produce a warning to network managers in the event that inappropriate websites are accessed.
Despite the obvious security advantages of putting a system like this in place, Internet filtering in schools has come in for a lot of complaints. While there has been nothing but praise for the security provisions of the Act and the obligations it includes there is a potential for over zealous network managers to ‘over block’ accessible material. For example, in some cases educational material could be prevented from being accessed, denying students a very important research resource. Additionally students who do not have access to an unfiltered network at home are burdened by those who do have access having an advantage for their research projects.
The importance of the Internet as a research tool for student’s personal development is also very important. Subjects such as STIs and sexual development could be blocked if the settings are too strict.
All school and content filtering solutions must allow the viewing of specific websites and have a whitelisting capability in case certain websites need to be viewed for education purposes.