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Students vs. school web filters: 3 reasons they bypass the filter

Students vs. school web filters 3 reasons they bypass the filter

If you have a web filter, you likely have discovered that students will try to find a way around. In fact, when Robert Bailey, Vice President of Hāpara, was a student, he tried to find a way around his school’s technology. As he says, “That’s what students do. They test the limits and try to figure out the easiest, fastest and best way to get around the rules that you put in place.”

In this webinar, Robert discusses three reasons why students bypass your school web filter, along with ways you can use AI to stop that behavior.

Check out the full webinar on demand. 👇


Student motivation for bypassing school web filters

Robert Bailey discusses three reasons kids break the rules:

  • To test the limits
  • To demonstrate their independence — especially teens
  • Because they are still developing executive functioning skills

It’s common for kids to want to test the limits and see how far they can push it before they get in trouble. Pre-teens and teens also want autonomy and to assert independence. Additionally, students often still need to develop the executive functioning skill of self-regulation and need structure in place to help them make responsible choices.

Methods of bypassing school web filters

So how are students getting around school web filters? Robert explains that students often play in-browser games such as the Snake game or games on Google Sites. There are even websites that display as Google Classroom but allow students to play games without teachers noticing. 

Most web filters will block the category of “games,” but Google Sites don’t fall under that category. Therefore, most web filters will not block them, and students are able to play games on those sites.  

Students also use VPNs and proxy sites, which schools and districts find are common methods for bypassing their web filters. 

Students also go into Google Docs and Sheets to play games, or they will chat with each other in Google Docs. It’s difficult for educators to know when this is happening, so it’s increasingly important for schools to have a web filter in place that will stop this from happening.

Strategies schools can take

Robert and the team at Hāpara believe in three main strategies that schools and educators can implement:

  • Digital citizenship instruction
  • Positive reinforcement
  • Gradual release of responsibility

There are a lot of classroom management tools out there that require educators to police students’ online behavior. However, Hāpara’s philosophy is that educators should help students take steps to evolve their behavior. Examples include having positive discussions about why it’s important to stay safe online and stay on task, and what it means to be a good digital citizen. Building students’ executive functioning skills also empowers them to embark on their own learning journey.

Role of AI and school web filtering

Rather than using a typical web filter on the market that requires you to constantly stay on top of blocking websites, you can let AI do the work for you. Deledao ActiveScan, presented by Hāpara scans the text, images and videos on every page as it loads and filters inappropriate or harmful content. This web filter is able to block those Google Sites that have games or block browser-based games such as the Snake game. It uses AI to understand context on a page versus simply using AI to create categories. 

Scanning with AI in real time is also important because web content changes constantly. One day a page may be safe, but the next day it may contain inappropriate content that students shouldn’t see.

Student wellness

Deledao ActiveScan, presented by Hāpara also offers a student wellness feature which alerts staff about bullying or students who are potentially contemplating suicide. It scans Google Docs, web searches and anything in-browser to send alerts of different levels to school or district staff and counselors. 

Success story and empowerment

One of Robert’s favorite stories is about a school district in Missouri. The IT director implemented the web filter, and twenty-four hours later, he called and said that it had blocked 6,000 gaming sites already. 

While the tools Hāpara offers are powerful, Robert says that classroom management tools shouldn’t just focus on blocking and closing students’ off-task browser tabs. Educators don’t want to be the internet police. The goal is to change students’ behavior and help students make the right choices online.

Explore how schools use a web filter and screen monitoring to keep students safe and teach digital citizenship.

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