The Children’s Internet Security Act (CIPA) has been in existence for almost fourteen years amidst a lot of controversies. The Act requires all K-12 schools and libraries to install a web filter, among other measures, to protect children from inappropriate online content. This web filtering was as a condition for receiving government funding, most notably the E-rate card. The E-rate card gives discounts of up to 90% on fast internet access and web accessories.
A web filter is vital in schools, and at home. It defeats the purpose to have a child protected I school, yet go home and have access to the entire internet. The internet is full of a lot of inappropriate content, and has been at some point referred to as “The Wild West.” There are several reasons why a web filter is a must for young children:
Discussing a web filter is pointless without defining it first. A web filter is a software designed to block access to a specific website. It can easily be installed on your home computer or school’s computer system and ensures children do not inadvertently come across harmful content. Some filtering software allows you to limit the time the child spends online, and to manage your child’s activity on social media websites.
At the beginning of the 21st-century, web filtering was very primitive and costly. The filters were not in software form; instead, they were hardware-based and complicated to configure. Nowadays, a web filter is much easier to configure and install
A web filter serves a general-purpose, such as the safety of children. Predators on the internet prey on young children, and allowing young children to have free reign on the open internet is dangerous. There are many chat rooms on the internet, especially in gaming rooms. A young child might think they are chatting with a fellow child, and end up giving up a little too much information about themselves. There have been incidences where these predators kidnapped and held hostage by these predators, for either ransom or worse.
When you install a web filter, your child is protected from websites where such predators lurk. A web filter works in several ways:
Blacklist: You can download the blacklist from internet safety groups, or get it from your web filter provider. These are lists of websites known for malware or nudity, violence, etc.
Category Filters: These control access by categorizing online content. A school or parent can choose which category filter they need. They can select those that block access to pornography as well as those that promote sexual prejudices or racial hatred. Web filter providers regularly update these lists.
Keyword Filters: These are used for fine-tuning the category filters or for controlling the websites the child accesses that contain certain keywords. When a child types in a specific URL or clicks on a hyperlink to a restricted site, the web filter compares the website request to the web filter. If the website is prohibited, a message pops up on the child’s computer or tablet explaining the reasons why.
Children will always try to tamper with a web filter at any opportunity they get. The kids will try to circumnavigate the screens, and the category filters are configured in a way that blocks access to VPNs, proxy websites and any anonymizer services. Other measures to prevent children from circumnavigating a web filter include:
A web filter should give a usage report that shows if any attempt was made to circumnavigate the filtering. The system administrators or parent should customize the reports to pinpoint signs like unusually high bandwidth usage on specific devices.
A web filter works well for both homes and schools, although they are predominantly used in schools. Children need protection from the open internet as it harbors all sorts of dangers, from access to inappropriate content. The law requires federally funded schools and libraries to ensure they install web filters on their computers to prevent children from accessing harmful content.
The filter categorizes the dangers found on the internet and blocks them according to the settings applied by the parents or the school administrators. No rule governs what parents should do in terms of accessing the internet, but it is every parent's obligation to watch their child.