The author raises four issues that must be considered and balanced by school administrators who are trying to do the “right” thing about students’ access to online information:
1. Filters aren’t the entire answer. Filters often block some valuable material as well as offensive sites, they sometimes fail to block harmful material, and they slow down access to online information. Also, the American Civil Liberties Union, among other groups, is fighting some decisions to use filters on the grounds that student access to information is a right that cannot be abridged.
2. Monitoring by teachers is essential, whether filters are used or not. Teachers need to educate their students about the school’s acceptable use policyand if the school doesn’t have such a policy, it needs to develop one. Teachers also need to make sure that students know their use of the web will be monitored to ensure that policies are followed.
3. Teachers need to teach students how to protect themselves from online predators. The web site http:// www.missingkids.org, sponsored by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, is a good place to start for more information.
4. Consider an inclusive, rather than an exclusive, solution. Technology managers and teachers might want to explore various software programs that create caches, or online libraries, of popular web sites within a school’s network or even on individual PCs. Access to those sites, once they are cached, will be much faster than to the “outside” web, and this solution will avoid some of the frustration associated with filtering delays.