In a 21st-century world, Internet access is more critical than ever to academic success. Yet some Web sites are obviously inappropriate for students. The question, then, is how far beyond the requirements of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) schools should go in restricting student access to certain Web sites. Banning pornography sites is required by law. Banning Facebook is common. Should schools also block YouTube and Skype? What about National Geographic?
Students, teachers, and librarians routinely discover that legitimate educational Web sites are blocked by their schools. If blocking Web sites is anything like banning cell phones, however, research shows that instead of banning entirely, it's better to allow occasional monitored access (with clear rules in place and a legitimate reason for incorporating them into the lesson). Appropriate access may significantly reduce student rule violations.
In addition, critics argue that when schools rely solely on site-blocking to keep kids safe, young people do not learn how to be Internet-savvy or how to evaluate the accuracy and credibility of information they encounter online. People of this mind tend to also see many learning advantages associated with students’ increased access to sites. For those in this camp, EducationWorld offers resources from Internet safety expert Nancy Willard on Supporting Students’ Safe and Responsible Internet Use and Safe Social Networking. We also offer tips from experts who feel that with the proper safeguards in place, social networking is safe and even desirable in an academic setting. Interested readers may want to visit the Banned Websites Awareness Day Page for Internet safety articles, lesson plans on digital literacy and information on school Acceptable Use Policies.
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