The internet is a source of useful information for children, yet it is a source of grief for parents and teachers. Not all homes have internet filtering, and it was not until the passing of the Children’s Protection Act (CIP) did internet filter software makes an about-turn. The act required all K-12 schools to implement an Internet Safety Policy to qualify for federal E-rate discounts on internet and telecommunication services.
The Internet Safety Policy includes technology protection measures that protect children from accessing the age-inappropriate content or viewing child pornography, obscene images, or other material harmful to minors. Most states have introduced legislation that makes it mandatory for schools to filter their internet.
The primary purpose of content filtering for schools is to prevent children from accessing harmful content. It also serves as a filtering solution for cybersecurity measures to block malware from downloading and to avoid phishing attacks.
Web filtering for schools works via a three-tier filtering mechanism. This mechanism consists of blacklists, category filters, and keyword filters, which prevent children from accessing harmful internet content and provide cybersecurity.
Blacklists can include websites that are known to contain inappropriate images or websites that are known to contain malware. Filtering services provide and update these website lists and are downloadable from safety websites on the internet.
Category filters are used for blocking access to specific website categories. These filters need to possess SSL inspection to decrypt any websites that contain inappropriate content such as pornography, religious intolerance, or racial hatred.
Keyword filters block access to websites that contain a selection of words. This tool allows administrators to make a whitelist that enables students to gain access to useful educational material, which category filters may block.
Content filtering for schools should be flexible enough to allow administrators to set varying filtering parameters for different age groups, and to set time-based control systems. In libraries, the administrators need to have cloud keys that override the keyword and category filters when access to the web is requested for research.
Wi-Fi Filtering for K-12 Schools
Wi-Fi filtering for K-12 schools needs to have the exact degree of control as their website screening to prevent the children from bypassing the mechanisms put in place by using anonymizer websites and VPNs. Wi-Fi category filters need to have a configuration that blocks all access to cached web pages, foreign language websites, and numerical IP addresses.
An essential aspect of a website filter is the ability to report. Administrators must be capable of configuring the reports after access to a website has been denied and when anyone has attempted to bypass the filter. The reports help to identify any devices that have unusual bandwidth consumption.
To qualify for the E-rate discounts, all K-12 schools have to formulate policies for student education on proper online interaction and behavior. Wi-Fi filtering makes policies much more straightforward to enforce via the reports and to prove that the schools are eligible for the E-rate discounts.
Cloud-Based Web Filtering
There are various options for school web filtering solutions. Still, cloud-based school filtering is more practical and cost-effective for controlling the accessible content via both wireless and wired networks. You can use a hardware-based web filter to control the content available by both staff and students. State school districts need multiple appliances, and the purchase cost of these appliances may be hefty. The more the users, there is a need to upgrade the appliances, and the higher the price.
Hardware-based appliances need maintenance, and after some time, upgrades are necessary, with IT staff a necessity for performing these tasks. On the other hand, cloud-based web filters do not need any hardware purchases as this solution is based on the cloud. There is no need for software installation, and to control the accessible content, all that is needed is for the schools’ DNS to be directed to the cloud solution provider, which takes a few minutes. Schools should look for the best internet filters for schools before settling for any solution.
Since internet filtering is a CIPA’s (Children’s Internet Protection Act) requirement, cloud-based filtering is a significant aspect of cybersecurity. Some advantages of cloud-based web filtering for schools include:
Other Legislations that Protect Children Online
Several legislations protect children online, such as:
The internet is awash with millions of inappropriate content for children. While it may not be possible to monitor what the students are up to at home, schools must provide a safe online environment for students. CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act) was signed into law to protect children from exposure to pornography, violence, racial hatred, or religious intolerance.
To ensure schools complied, they are required to enforce web filtering to get E-rate discounts on internet and telecommunication services. In the past, schools had to invest in hardware and software for web filtering, but cloud web filtering has changed all this. It is easy to use and cost-effective solution for schools.
Web filtering works in three stages, namely, blacklists, category, and keyword filters, all of which work together but at different levels to block access to the internet for both the students and the staff. These filters prevent students from bypassing security measures by using VPNs or anonymizer websites.