School Web Filters Too Restrictive?

Are your school web filters too restrictive?

Two of the most google searched questions in schools are students searching ‘how to bypass web filters’ and school staff asking, ‘are web filters too restrictive?’. We felt it was a good idea at Coconnect, as specialist providers of School Broadband and school Web Filtering, to advise on how to customise school web filters so they are not too strict.  

School web filters

Why are strict school web filters not always appropriate?

The main issue with having too strict school web filters is that it can hinder student learning and reduce personal development. Pupils might have something they are passionate about or want to learn more about a particular topic. However, web pages on these topics are blocked due to restrictive school web filters.  

A good example is gaming, which is a popular topic in the school age range, with 55% of pupils wanting gaming to be a part of the curriculum. Schools with strict school web filtering policies will categorise sites on the topic to be not suitable to students while in schools and block students from accessing. However, the gaming industry is one of the world’s largest industries, and many pupils could end up with careers there. Strict school web filters hinder their knowledge of the industry from an early age.  

How to find the right balance with school web filters?

Finding the right balance is key to appropriate school web filtering policies. Too strict web filters will hinder students learning but too weak policies create safeguarding risks that students can bypass and access harmful content. Here are a few tips when trying to find the right balance:  

When setting up your school web filters, define age-appropriate web filtering policies; this creates a better balance because it allows year 10/11 students more access to content deemed inappropriate for pupils in year 7/8, but as they are more mature, it is not to them.  

One of the most important things is not to over block. It is easy for schools to block any website they believe students shouldn’t have access to before they understand the benefits of that site. YouTube has a lot of learning resources in the form of online tutorials and videos. However, schools like to block YouTube due to the potential of videos on the site having a violent or sexual nature. There are ways to set up your school web filters so YouTube can be accessed but inappropriate videos are blocked. We’d suggest having a conversation with your filtering provider if this is the case.  

Get students’ feedback; students constantly search the web to find ways around the school web filters, so schools should ask their opinion on the access they are allowed on the internet. A survey can provide insight into whether they feel suffocated while searching the web, sites they’d like unblocked and if they feel trusted on the web.   

Expect a lot of trial and error; there is no one trick to finding the right balance with every school having different requirements for their school web filters. When implementing school web filters, ensure that the system you have in place allows customisation and regular updating.  

How can a web specialist filtering provider help?

A specialist provider can help schools find the correct control levels required. At Coconnect, pre-defined school web filtering policies are already uploaded on any system we install. Schools use these pre-defined policies as a starting point and to find the balance they require, often with advice from our experts.   

Summary

To summarise, school web filters become too restrictive when they hinder students learning resources. To find the right balance, consider whether policies are customed to be age appropriate and why you are blocking specific sites and ask students for their thoughts. If you have asked the question ‘If your web filters are too restrictive’, speak with a web filtering provider and they will be able to assist.   

If you’re looking to speak with a school web filtering provider, One of our experts at Coconnect will happily have an honest conversation with you. Get in touch, alternatively book a call at a time that suits you.

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