Eye of the Editors: Internet security

In an age where the internet is accessible from almost anywhere, it’s become normalized for schools across the country to blacklist “non-educational” websites on their district wifi, which includes social media apps and platforms. 

It is indisputable that these website blockers are a necessity for schools, especially with the amount of information circulating the internet that is inappropriate for a learning environment. However, there must be a balance between restricting students from harmful websites and providing them with access to educational resources. 

Because there are too many websites for schools to manually filter, many schools, such as Diamond Bar High School, block them using a word-based filter which is highly ineffective. 

While the filter may hinder students from accessing social media websites and apps, such as Facebook, YouTube and Reddit under their school account, it also limits students’ learning capabilities in doing so. 

 Many apps are commonly used by students to communicate for educational and extracurricular purposes, such as Messenger or Facebook. Blocking these websites would effectively prevent students from communicating easily, which can become an obstacle in group projects, club settings and the like. 

Equally as inefficient is the issue of banning specific websites while still allowing access to others with similar features. For instance, some websites, such as Quora, are banned, because they can be used to cheat on assignments, while other sites like Quizizz, which can easily be used for the same purpose, are still available.

For instance, in many of my English classes, we often read works of literature that contain trigger words, leading many students to use their own data to finish assignments. Of course, this introduces a variety of new obstacles to the classroom; many students might not have their own cellular data or even their own devices to access the internet, and they end up having to ask others to share their devices or share a wifi connection through a mobile hotspot.

Therefore, this system proves to be counterintuitive as nitpicking on certain sites— which can serve other purposes as well— does not stop students from finding other, similar sources and cheating off of them.

To address these issues, schools must establish more detailed parameters that prevent useful sites from being blocked. If they stay built around a system where keywords are what constitutes website bans, random sites that could be crucial to students’ learning would stay banned, such as a book for an English class that happened to be caught in the filter.

But aside from educational resources, there are potentially important websites that should not be banned. For instance, in the Katy Independent School District, several websites of organizations that assist the LGBTQ+ community ended up being restricted from students by word filters. This same filter blocked a suicide prevention hotline that was connected to one of the organizations due to it being flagged as a “trigger” word. 

Evidently, blocking resources such as these from students can be extremely detrimental. Students who want to access these resources, upon seeing that they are blocked, may feel like they are shunned for trying to, and it would be beneficial for their safety and educational future to avoid this.