Looking into how public education is affected by internet filters

By: Gaby Quintero (Online Editor)- 9/28/18

   School internet filters are necessary to stop students from goofing off during class; however, they impact the resources students have available during school hours.

   Congress passed the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in 2000 to protect minors from coming into contact with harmful internet websites. This act requires schools and public libraries in the United States to implement internet filters for students in grades K-12. LAUSD is in charge of applying internet filters to schools. Filters are added into school technology such as Chromebooks, desktops, and tablets to protect students from going onto risky websites during school hours.

   Apart from protecting students from harmful websites, having internet filters helps prevent students from getting distracted in the classroom. Typical high school (and sometimes middle school) students like to scroll through social media apps such as Instagram and Twitter when they get bored in class. School tablets and computers block such websites so students can stay on task.

   In this generation, students don’t need computers to use social media. Anyone with a smartphone is able to access social media apps in a few seconds. Although many teachers at John F. Kennedy High School prohibit the use of smartphones in the classroom, students can find a way to use them anyway. Teachers are often too busy following their lesson plans that they don’t have time to monitor smartphone or Chromebook usage, allowing students to sneakily use these them during class.

   Some teachers agree that internet filters have gotten students to stay on task. As part of their class rules, teachers sometimes prohibit the use of smartphones unless used for educational purposes. In an extra attempt to limit student distractions, some teachers make students turn off their phones before getting into the classroom.

   A couple of teachers at Kennedy tell their students to turn off or hide their phones in their backpacks throughout the whole period. As I walk through A building, I sometimes notice that Spanish teacher Sandra Mendivil stands outside her classroom door checking that her students have their phones off.

   Contrastingly, internet filters aren’t always effective because they can restrict students from accessing valuable resources. For example, students might not be able to watch an educational YouTube video, whether it’s for research or for homework help, because YouTube is often blocked on school-owned tablets and computers.

   Visual learners might need to watch a video on a complicated concept in order to better understand what the teacher was saying. This limits students from expanding their knowledge during school hours. Also, this leaves students at a disadvantage because not everyone is fortunate enough to have internet access at home.

   A 2014 survey conducted by the Pew Research Internet Project, which explores the impact of internet on American lives, shows that three times as many teachers in low income communities had a difficult time incorporating internet sources into their teaching than teachers from middle to high income communities.

   The vice president of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Vicky Rideout, conducted a study on the effect of internet filters in schools and libraries. It was discovered that schools and libraries set at the most restrictive filter level blocked an average of 25% of health sites compared to a 1.4% average at the least restrictive filter level.

   There are pros and cons of having internet filters in schools and libraries. Internet filters can protect students of any age from going onto explicit or inappropriate websites during school hours. Contrastingly, filters can limit students from gaining valuable knowledge when they need it most. Filters should be applied without limiting students from accessing useful video, articles, or websites. In order for students to expand their knowledge through available resources, public schools and libraries need to lower the restrictive settings on internet filters.