Options for Controlling Internet Access

Question: What options are available for controlling student access of the Internet?

The IT Guy says:

One of the goals of every school’s computer literacy curriculum and campus policies should be helping students learn to be responsible and ethical users of technology tools. To this end, schools need to foster perceptions of individual accountability for online behavior just as they do for face to face behavior.

As human beings, we tend to act differently in a situation where we believe we are truly anonymous and not accountable. Rather than creating a stifling, locked down computing environment where no student can make a mistake because the software and system configurations will not permit it, school computing environments must strike a balance between meeting federal regulations for protecting minors from inappropriate online content and creating a completely open and anonymous virtual environment where accountability is non-existant.

Several different commercial products are now available which monitor and record every keystroke, website URL, and instant message or chat phrase typed by a student or staff member onto a school computer. Investing in “big brother†software like this may sound Orwellian, but it does not have to be. Using a mixture of sound instructional practice and student discipline management strategies, as well as available technological solutions, educators must find ways to create academic computing environments which have both a substantial level of freedom for students and staff, and clear lines of accountability for computer users that are clearly understood.

Many school and library computers are so “locked down†that they leave no room for student decision making, when it comes to the ethical choices which are present online and elsewhere in computing environments. This alternative is a poor choice because it leaves students ill-equipped to deal with the realities of non-filtered, completely open home computing environments which are available to growing numbers of children each day. Education about appropriate computer and network resource usage must extend beyond the walls of the classroom into the community, as adults as well as young people strive to stay abreast of ever-changing waves of technology.

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