Magazine article Technology & Learning

Web Watchers: Whether You're Looking to Block Objectionable Content or Curb Students' Surfing Appetites, the Latest Filters Can Help. (Update: Filtering Tools)

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Web Watchers: Whether You're Looking to Block Objectionable Content or Curb Students' Surfing Appetites, the Latest Filters Can Help. (Update: Filtering Tools)

Article excerpt

In 2001, the National Center for Education Statistics found that 98 percent of public schools had drawn up acceptable use policies defining the rules for Internet use on campuses. Of those schools, 74 percent were using some form of software to filter the Web's estimated 2.1 billion pages--a number growing at a rate of 7 million a day. As educators are well aware, driving this adoption is the Children's Internet Protection Act, which requires schools to use filtering software in exchange for E-rate and Title III technology funding.

In general, filtering technology enables administrators and teachers to either limit access to specific sites, or to block access to unsuitable sites listed in a database. The best filtering products can be customized to let schools choose which sites to prohibit by categorizing them in groups. Vendors provide dozens of categories, such as violent acts, weapons, and racism, and often update databases daily.

In addition to its primary function of barring offensive content, filtering has also become an important tool for schools to reduce spam, free up bandwidth, and limit activities that would distract kids from their schoolwork. For example, most vendors extend their product capabilities to also filter or block instant messaging, chat rooms, and e-mail. …

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