“Mrs. B, the World War II website you assigned us to visit is blocked.”
“Mr. P. You know that small local business you wanted us to read about last night? Their website was restricted.”
“Mr. K, this video on U.S. military history is totally blocked.”
“You’ve got to be joking! This website on animal digestion is restricted, Mrs. R.”
“Ummm, Mrs. E, we can’t read this suicide prevention article for our health project.”
These kinds of complaints, interactions and frustrations are all too common these days, especially as much of our learning has moved online. Teachers and students are fed up with schools’ internet filters blocking essential learning tools, such as websites and videos.
Let me reiterate that: essential learning tools. Our schools are routinely restricting our access to credible information about important topics: American and world history; the Holocaust; mental health and suicide prevention; animal science and anatomy; and human science and anatomy, just to name a few.
Why are there such severe browser restrictions in most public schools? Because the Children’s Internet Protection Act, passed by Congress in 2000, requires schools to have web browsing restrictions for all students under the age of 17. Schools receive government funds to pay for these web filters, and all student technology must be equipped with them.
There are at least two issues with this. One, all technology in the school building has restricted web browsers for teachers and students. Teachers, especially those who teach sex education or about any kind of warfare, have to jump through hoops to find websites they and their students can use.
Two, these restrictions make it difficult for older students to research topics. Last year, I had to use my father’s home computer to research the zombie apocalypse for a “passion project” in my English course. Why? Because the school’s internet filters completely blocked my access to information.
Consider this: The zombie apocalypse is totally fictional and has absolutely no chance of harming anyone. But all the sites I needed to visit were blocked.
I am not saying internet restrictions are completely unnecessary. Children in middle school and elementary school absolutely should have web browser restrictions.
But high school students who are required to learn about topics like warfare, human sexuality and anatomy must have unfiltered access to credible information.
It’s time to adjust the federal legal requirements. Instead of limiting access to information for children under 17, the Children’s Internet Protection Act should be amended to shield children under the age of 13 or 14.
Children ages 15 and up should be able to visit any website deemed appropriate by their teachers. If we are to become informed citizens, we must have access to more information, not less.
Emily Brown is in grade 12 at Garden Spot High School.
Website of source