With the Internet being used more and more in the classroom and at home, an important issue has been raised regarding the safety of our children and students when they are online. Parents are looking to be given the peace of mind to know that their children will not be able to access inappropriate materials while they are at school. Teachers cannot watch every move that their students make while navigating the World Wide Web and need help to keep students on secure sites.
One of the most popular ways to keep students on secure sites is through the use of filters. Filters come in many different varieties, and there is sure to be a brand that makes a filter for your operating system. An example of a popular filtering program is called Vista, and it is available through (and now comes standard with newer versions of) Microsoft Windows. Vista and other filtering software programs give you the options of limiting your students’ access to certain websites in a number of different ways. Below are some examples of how you can filter through the sites that your students surf:
• Time Limits — You can have the flexibility to set the times of the day when your students are allowed to use the Internet and other specified applications on any specific computer.
• Personalize — If necessary you can program separate students to have separate rights on any computer. Individual log-ins can help you to set different rules for the older and younger children if you wish.
• Web Restrictions — Here you can restrict what types of web sites your children can visit. Parents and teachers can choose to block content in a number of different ways. Parents can block content by category (i.e. my child cannot go to pornographic sites) or by specific URL addresses (i.e. if you do not what your child managing a MySpace profile simply block their ability to visit www.myspace.com).
• Game Restrictions — Teachers can restrict the types of online games that children play. You can choose to block access to games all together or base your blocking of games on game ratings. For example, games with adult content would not be accessible.
• Application Restrictions — Teachers can apply limits to what applications the child is allowed to use on the computer. Applications that the child has no business accessing would be restricted.
• Activity Reporting — You can choose to turn on or off an activity reporting feature. Activity reporting allows you to be able to see a report of exactly what your child has done on the computer (i.e. what websites they visited, what programs were used, etc.).
As its name suggests, a firewall is a feature on your computer that can be used to prevent predators from intruding in your private affairs. For example, if you were making a purchase with your credit card online, you would not want anyone but you and the retailer you are buying from to be able to see your sensitive financial information. The firewall makes it very difficult for intruders to spy on what it is that you are doing when you are online. A firewall can be beneficial for children who may be chatting with friends online. If a hacker were given access to your child’s conversations, they would be able to obtain personal information about the child that the predator could then use against them. A firewall helps to make sure that the secure sites your student is visiting, remain secure from intruders.
With all that technology can do to protect our children from visiting inappropriate sites, there is no way to filter and firewall every site and computer that our students will ever visit. This is why there is no substitute for establishing rules that children are to follow when they are online. Students need to be taught and be held accountable for the decisions that they will be faced with on a regular basis. Keeping students on secure sites is ultimately going to be the responsibility of the individual student.