What is the objective of internet censorship in public schools? Is it effective and does it do more good than bad? When talking about internet censorship in schools, heated debates are always bound to arise on what they should block, how strict they should be, and if they should even be there. The topic of fettered or unfettered internet is a hot topic and can be both good and bad for education. When talking about something that sounds like such a small topic it is important to remember that everyday our lives and the internet are becoming more and more intertwined. Now phones and computers are almost always linked to the internet. In this ever evolving world that is becoming more and more technology reliant it is important to teach youth the importance of internet safety. Not just what sites to visit, but also how to do thing securely on the internet and how to make the internet secure when it is not already. In society today most hold the view that the best way to teach youth how to stay safe on the internet is by blocking them from certain websites.
This is done by using a proxy that detects keywords and when a keyword trips the server it blocks the website. “Too often filters are blunt instruments, cutting off access to ideas just because a word or two are regarded as so loaded that they trigger automated censorship.” (Paulson, Ken. First Amendment Center) “Entire categories of Web sites had been blocked, including those that involved games, violence, weapons, even swimsuits, said Judy Gressel, a librarian. “It just got to the point that it became hard to conduct research,” she said, adding that students could not read sites about, say, military weapons for a history paper.”(Hu, Winnie, “A Call for Opening Up Web Access at Schools, for Learning’s Sake”)When doing research for school projects it makes it hard to find good research if whenever you search for something it gets blocked just because somewhere on the page it says gun, blood, or another word that has tripped the filter. “Our job is to teach students the safe use of the internet.
And its hard to do that if we can’t get to the sites.” (Deven Black) When in school it is important to learn more than math, science, history and English. It is also important to learn life skills. Safe internet use is a life skill that will be used when students graduate and they no longer have the forceful filters placed upon their internet access. By teaching them now how to respect the internet students learn the difference between good and bad media. “Students today grow up faster and are exposed to much more media(good and bad)than any generation before.” (Paulson,Ken. First Amendment Center) The number one source for information is no longer Channel 5 or the newspaper. It is now the World Wide Web (WWW). With the technology we have today being able to have news just hours after the event instead of one or two days, the demand for online blogs and news resources has boomed. Being able to decipher what is legitimate and what is not is the most important thing. Humans strive off of information. It has been a natural desire that every human being has been born with.
“Students must develop skills to evaluate information from all types of sources in multiple formats, including the Internet. Relying solely on filters does not teach young citizens how to be savvy searchers or how to evaluate the accuracy of the information.”(Dileonardo, Diana ‘The Debate on Internet Censorship in Public Schools) When going to gather safe information it is important to know not only what websites are safe and what sites can be harmful, but also what material is truthful and accurate so you are not misinformed. When using Internet filters students do not have the chance to visit sites that are ‘Fake’ and hold false data, or sites that can even be harmful to a computer. Therefore they don’t get the understanding of what is good and what is bad. Students are only seeing one side of the big picture that could potentially harm their computer and/or ruin their life if a big enough problem occurs to the computer.
Just like everything else there are laws that are placed on the internet and these laws are expected to be followed. When these laws are broken they can be punishable under two categories, Federal or International (being that it is a World Wide Web database(No one owns it)). It is important to teach students these laws and the consequences of breaking these laws. Because it is easier to teach a child something then to teach them as a grown adult. Teachers and parents alike argue that Internet filters should be applied but no one can come to an agreement on to what extent the strictness of these filters should be. “Congress, in 2000 enacted the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act. The act provides three different types of funding; 1) aid to elementary and secondary schools; 2) Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grants to States for support of public libraries; and 3) the E-rate program that provides technology discounts to schools and public libraries.” (“Children and the Internet” National Conference of State Legislation). This is a good way to protect children from harmful threats on the Internet.
There is lots of harmful material on the Internet though, “Perhaps most troubling is the role Internet has come to play in bullying and harassment,highlighted by the series of high-profile suicides in the last few years.”(Dileonardo, Diana, “The Debate on Internet Censorship in Public Schools -IPLJ”) Suicides are never a pretty thing, but there is always a way to prevent them. With Suicides provoked buy online encounters the natural thing to do in society today is to get rid of the problem instead of facing it head on. In this case the problem is the harasser. By acting as if the problem of online harassment does not exist students do not learn how to handle the situation when it presents itself. The answer to the problem of online harassment is simple.
Even when situation is its’ most complex, the solution is to just ignore the harasser and get out of the website. “Thirteen year-old Megan Meier committed suicide in 2006 after a classmate and the classmate’s mother created a fake myspace account and posted hurtful messages.” (Dileonardo, Diana, “The Debate on Internet Censorship in Public Schools -IPLJ”) This girl went to public school her whole life and had always had censored Internet. If she had been taught how to deal with these types of issues, she may have not committed suicide.
“Some school leaders and education advocates have argued that the Internet can be a distraction in the classroom, and that blocking social media is also a way to protect students from bullying and harassment.”(Hu, Winnie, “A Call for Opening Up Web Access at Schools, for Learning’s Sake”) A good point is made that if students are spending more time on MySpace rather than studying the history of the Colt revolver, then the time the teacher gave them in the lab has been wasted. But there was another very good point brought up by a Mr. Goerner, a Librarian at Silver Creek High School.
“Mr. Goerner said he decided to organize the graffiti debate as a reminder to students that censorship takes away a person’s voice or, in this case, online privileges. Silver Creek unblocked many social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, two years ago after recognizing that they could provide learning opportunities.”(Hu, Winnie. “A Call for Opening Up Web Access at Schools, for Learning’s Sake.” The New York Times) Using social media sites is a good way to share ideas and express the different views that people have taken on certain subjects. The ability to share ideas is one of the great things about America, and it is important to embrace that right.
Something to remember is that “No one is suggesting that students should have access to pornography in America’s schools, but neither should we be so nervous about what young people read and see that we short-circuit their access to the marketplace of ideas. A high school senior has at most months before he or she is expected to enter the world as a full-fledged citizen, with the power to vote and influence public policy. We are not preparing students for those significant responsibilities if we shield them from uncomfortable ideas, or worse, deprive them of educational opportunities because of highly restrictive settings on a web filter.” (Paulson,Ken. First Amendment Center) Knowledge about events going on in the world is essential information that everyone needs to know. Francis Bacon once said the very well known Quote “Knowledge is Power” this is an extreamly powerful saying and also very true without knowledge a man is nothing. In America we have the right to obtain what knowledge we wish in some countries they limit you to only what they want you to know because you can become quite powerful.
Filtering the Internet is something that has to be done with care. Just cause it feels like a filter would be the best thing to have on a computer to keep a child off of some certain websites just consider a couple of things; Is the filter restricting access to sites that are educational or could provide good factual information, Is the child learning not to go on the websites or is He/She learning how to bypass your proxy with their own, and how old is the child is it really going to matter in the near future.
I have a passion for cars and computers and have always LOVED it when someone locked the Internet because I saw it as a challenge or just another game. I learned about the time I was twelve how to bypass almost any Internet security and I have always thought that Internet filtering was a bad idea because the only reason I started to hack pass Internet filters was because they were there. I think that as teenagers and even younger when we are told that we can not do something we want to find a way to do it, by putting a big red screen in front of a 4th grader that says youtube.com is blocked naturaly they want to find a way to get into youtube.com. I think that by allowing access to children to websites even at school eventualy these sites will become unimportaint to them and the student will start to focus on the sites that provide the research needed to complete the task at hand, and will begin to get better grades in classes.