How far have we come in 8 years with balanced filtering in schools?

Over-filtering of Internet content in US schools has been a problem for years. In the 2002 report, “The Digital Disconnect: The widening gap between Internet-savvy students and their schools,” authors wrote:

While many students recognize the need to shelter teenagers from inappropriate material and adult-oriented commercial ads, they complain that blocking and filtering software often raise barriers to students’ legitimate educational use of the Internet. Most of our students feel that filtering software blocks important information, and many feel discouraged from using the Internet by the difficulties they face in accessing educational material.

These complaints are not limited to students, of course. Many teachers have and continue to report problems with over-filtering of Internet content. The problems are not limited to websites with desired and appropriate content, however. Many schools have and continue to block access to web-based email accounts for students as well as staff, despite the fact laws (like CIPA) do not require such blocking. In the same report, authors noted:

In addition, many students describe schools that do not allow them to access their outside email accounts—the vast majority of students are not provided with school-sanctioned email accounts. In many cases, schools also prevent students from using instant messaging technologies, save their files to the school network, visit Web sites that teachers do not explicitly authorize them to visit, and—in perhaps the most extreme case we heard about—perform “right clicks” of their mouse to launch a (seemingly) innocuous pop-up menu within the Microsoft Windows operating system.

How far have we come as a nation, in our public schools, in eight years when it comes to balanced content filtering? Some schools have come a long way, but many others remain in the dark ages. BalancedFiltering.org seeks to change this impasse and accelerate the pace of change in local communities when it comes to discussions about balanced content filtering.

Source: Arafeh, S., Levin, D., & Rainie, L. (2002). The Digital Disconnect: The widening gap between Internet-savvy students and their schools. Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved November 8, 2010, from http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2002/The-Digital-Disconnect-The-widening-gap-between-Internetsavvy-students-and-their-schools.aspx

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