Money Doesn’t Buy Internet Safety

As I’ve related in earlier rants, our overly-large school district is phasing in a new internet censorship filtering system. Now that our teachers have returned to work we’re discovering just how messed up things really are.

To “protect” our kids, we pay a vendor big bucks to find all the nasty stuff on the web and put it into categories. Then someone, somewhere in our bureaucracy decides which categories to block.

Categories like Message Boards and Forums into which it seems any site that even looks like a blog or podcast has been placed.

All of this ties into Steve Dembo’s post over at Technology and Learning in which he discusses the very open secret about these digital filters: your students probably know many ways to bypass the technology.

A few days later on his own blog, Steve follows up on a comment by a student (who brags about the ease of getting around the blocks) by looking at the story of a filtering system for which Australia paid $84 million.

One that a student defeated very quickly.

They [the Australian government] invested $84 million dollars in a complex filtering system to try to keep students away from porn sites. It took a 16 year old 30 minutes to bypass it. So the government added another filter to take care of the security hole. The same teenager was able to bypass the new addition within 40 minutes.

But before you classify this teenager as a delinquent, note that he understands the issues involved far better than most of the adults running our schools.

“Filters aren’t addressing the bigger issues anyway,” he said.

“Cyber bullying, educating children on how to protect themselves and their privacy are the first problems I’d fix.

“They really need to develop a youth-involved forum to discuss some of these problems and ideas for fixing them.”

It probably wouldn’t cost anywhere near $84 million to simply involve students in this and other aspects of how we use technology in THEIR education.

education, internet, censorship, dembo