Thursday, September 11, 2014
Web Filtering Is Not Glamorous, but You May Still Make the Paper
What may be done at any time will be done at no time.
~ Scottish Proverb
Procrastination seems to be built into human nature somehow; some problems become crises before being dealt with. In the beginning, most web content filtering problems are virtually unnoticeable. Maybe it’s because they always seem to start so small they’re nearly innocuous: A slip here, slide there. And who really wants to deal with web filtering and make it a priority?
Web content filtering isn’t glamorous. Other issues feel more pressing, like network failures on testing days. Some issues are just more pleasant to deal with, like procuring new hardware. And let’s face it, students won’t sing your praises for bulletproofing your web filter. It is, however, necessary. Unlike rescheduled test days or network performance issues, a web filter failure will get your name in the paper.
Take Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41 near Chicago, Illinois. After a web filter failure there, in which fourth and fifth grade students were caught viewing pornography on the playground, parents combined forces to bring to light “other instances of inappropriate computer usage at district schools.” All together, the story originally broke in early May, but once on radar with the press, progressive coverage of events becomes standard. The most recent update on Glen Ellyn was published in August.
Another example of this phenomenon happened in Forest Grove, Oregon. A student there was using her IPad to look at erotica through the literature curation website Wattpad. The story was a follow-up in response to an investigational piece by the local news which focused on student agility in filtering circumvention.
And it isn’t just emergencies that get a school noticed for its web filtering policies. Apparently even over blocking of sites is press worthy, as indicated by the Waseca County News, on grounds that it is unfair. Sometimes the discussion even gets political, as it did in Woodbury, Connecticut, where a student doing research noticed that there seemed to be uneven blocking of conservative branded sites.
There are also probably more instances of web filtering gone bad that go unreported, but there’s really no way to tell how a filtering fumble will shake out before it hits the press. Of course, that begs the question; with so much at stake, why take the risk? Like laundry, dishes, or getting your oil changed, making sure your web filter is up to the challenge is the first small step in making sure that your students are protected, but it’s an important one. Perhaps it’s time to schedule some time.