5 Key Considerations for Regulating Web Traffic to Ensure Safety and Save Bandwidth

For most school districts, internet filters are crucial for complying with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which requires restricting students from accessing inappropriate online content. Filtering also allows districts to manage limited bandwidth.  Here are five crucial decisions to make in developing best practices for the wide variety of filters—and your options for using them—in K12 schools.

Establish parameters

First, define exactly how and what you want to filter, says Mike Jamerson, director of technology at Indiana’s Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation. Think about setting filtering policies based on age, staff position and time of day. For instance, some streaming services might be blocked during the day, but not after school.

Select the right technology

The next step is determining the right filter for a district’s needs, which depends on size, says Keith Bockwoldt, director of technology services at Township High School District 214 in the Chicago suburbs. “It must be robust enough to handle thousands of connections,” he says. “With 12,100 students, our web filters are clustered to handle the large amount of traffic.”

Large districts serving thousands of users likely need on-premises equipment and configuration, but a cloud-based solution may work better for smaller districts, says Altom, in Oklahoma. Also, make sure your product “can handle SSL decryption,” he adds.

Provide ongoing maintenance

Even after the right filter with the right parameters is installed, the work is never over. With 54 schools and almost 3,000 teachers, Oregon’s Beaverton School District gets many requests to block or unblock content, says Steven Langford, chief information officer.

“Sometimes a teacher will submit a request to block a site and if it is blocked, another teacher will submit a request to unblock the same one,” he says. “To support requests, we have a committee to determine the instructional impact of filter changes.”

Establish consequences for misuse

When the rules are set, there must be consequences for breaking them. Narragansett students who attempt to bypass the filter also break the district’s internet usage policy, Lugini says. Infractions are handled on a case by case basis, but can result in students losing their devices for a period of time.

Communicate openly and regularly

Students, parents, teachers and community members are all concerned about internet filtering—so districts are more successful if they communicate their policies to all these groups. Beaverton’s website includes an explanation of filtering, the reasons the district filters and how filtering decisions are made.

The information for this post was taken from an article by Nancy Mann Jackson in District Administration, follow this link for more details.