Web Site Filtering

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According to the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics Web site (http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2002/internet/8.asp): “Given the diversity of the information carried on the Internet, student access to inappropriate material is a major concern of many parents and teachers. Moreover, under the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), no school may receive E-Rate discounts unless it certifies that it is enforcing a policy of Internet safety that includes the use of filtering or blocking technology.”

As we all know, this generation of young adults is cyber-savvy. They know all the cool sites and interact with them on a daily basis. This poses a problem when it comes to students having access to the Internet within a school district. Adult, gambling and auction Web sites are some obvious examples of what is inappropriate for children. Also, you have pop-up ads that distract students from doing work online to better their education. This is why filtering software was created. Web site filtering is the selection of Internet or Web site content deemed acceptable for viewing and/or prohibiting the viewing of objectionable Web content.

The following practicable strategies and advice come courtesy of Tim Howes, director of support services and technology at East Windsor Public Schools in Connecticut, who is currently addressing this important issue within his own school district.

Considerations

If you want to run filtering software from a central point on the network, you will need a filtering server. There are two types of these servers: dedicated “white box” servers that only handle filtering and “open” servers that can do more than just filter. White box servers only serve the task of filtering Web sites. They usually come with a simple user interface that allows a quick and easy set up. The open server is basically an NT, Linux or Novell server running compatible filtering software. Because it is an open server, set up can take more time, but the server can perform more tasks for the network. Make sure that the filtering server is the only point of presence in and out of the Web, so no one can go around the filtering server to get to the open Internet. This is why you want two network cards in the server — one on the LAN side and one on the WAN side — so the filtering software will create a barrier by sitting between the two sides.

Benefits:

  • Web site filtering helps make the most of an Internet connection, since a lot of the Web sites designed for young adults consume vast amounts of bandwidth.
  • Filtering out chat and e-mail sites protects students from giving out information that can be used against them.
  • School districts are able to create an acceptable use policy that can be enforced.
  • The IT person is given the ability to track Web site and bandwidth usage.
  • Helps prevent viruses from entering school computers.
  • Assists in prohibiting the installation of spyware and backdoor Trojans.

Resources:

  • SurfControl
    www.surfcontrol.com
    Provides Web-filtering software applications used to manage Internet access and block access to sites that users deem inappropriate.
  • N2H2 Inc.
    www.n2h2.com
    Control, manage and understand Internet use with N2H2’s content-filtering solutions.
  • X-Stop Filtering
    www.xstop.com
    Develops customized Internet Access Management network applications for businesses, ISPs and the education market.

Judith B. Rajala, M.A., president and founder of EduHound.com, is an independent education technology instructor and former K-12 educator. She is also a consultant for several Connecticut-based state technology organizations. Visit EduHound online at www.eduhound.com or e-mail EduHoundExtra@thejournal.com.

This article originally appeared in the 12/01/2002 issue of THE Journal.

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