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What is a web filter and how does it work for K-12?

What is a web filter and how does it work for K-12?

What is a web filter? 

A web filter is a digital tool that restricts websites or web pages a person can visit on their computer. It can be installed in different ways to filter what someone sees online. For example, it can be loaded as part of a network security system for people across an organization. Or it can be installed as a software program on a person’s computer. Many work as browser extensions that can be added to filter websites and content when searching online. 

To keep computers and networks from being attacked, a filter is used to block sites known for viruses, malware or phishing. It can be set up to restrict inappropriate, harmful or distracting content as well. Sometimes organizations, schools or parents want to increase productivity. In this case, they may use a web filter to prevent someone from visiting entertainment sites or social media.

How does a web filter work for K-12? 

School districts set up web filters for K-12 to protect learners and school devices. Most importantly, school districts need to create a safe learning environment by blocking content harmful to minors. When students are working on computers at school or logged into school networks, the filter can restrict specific websites and URLs. It will also keep viruses or malware from attacking school devices and filter spam in email.

Technology administrators can also use filters to keep learners on task during instructional time. Social media, games, message boards and streaming sites are often blocked by schools to keep students focused on learning. 

While using web filters, it’s important for school districts to create internet safety policies that outline how learners will be protected. These should be communicated with staff, students and families.

Why is a web filter important for K-12?

The U.S. Congress enacted the Children’s Internet Protect Act (CIPA) in 2000. CIPA was created to protect children from viewing harmful content when using the internet at schools or libraries. Schools in the U.S. must follow CIPA guidelines to be eligible for the E-Rate program, which gives them discounts on communication products and services.

The main guideline is that schools are required to have an internet safety policy that protects students. The policy needs to address several areas such as:

  • keeping learners from viewing inappropriate and harmful content
  • protecting them when communicating online
  • safeguarding students’ personal information

Schools must block or filter harmful and obscene images on learners’ educational devices. Additionally, they should educate learners about digital citizenship. Teachers can do this by discussing appropriate online behavior and how to have positive interactions with other people online.

Web filters are key because they allow school districts to comply with CIPA. While countries outside of the U.S. don’t have laws as specific as CIPA, it is important for any school to protect their students’ safety online. Web filters make this possible.

What does a web filter do? 

Many web filters work by setting up lists of allowed and blocked sites. Administrators can list blocked websites or URLs, which means users are restricted from visiting them. In this case, any other sites on the internet are available to visit. When allowed sites or URLs are listed, users only get access to those and all other sites are restricted.

Some web filters also work with keywords or types of content. The filter will search through a website to look for the keywords or content the administrator has set up. If the website contains them, it’s restricted to users. For example, in K-12 schools, technology administrators might filter out game sites that could keep students from focusing. They can also block categories of content known for harmful speech. 

Technology administrators can find lists of sites and URLs known for viruses and malware on internet safety sites which they can then add to their district filter.

A better web filter for K-12 school districts 

Deledao ActiveScan, presented by Hāpara is a practical web filter solution for school districts. Made specifically for K-12, it’s a real-time web filter powered by artificial intelligence (AI). It reads just like humans do and uses context when filtering out harmful content. Analyzing video, images and text in real-time, it instantly creates a safe digital learning environment. Plus, it works on school devices in the classroom and while learning at home.

Easy to manage

With traditional web filters, technology administrators have to manually set up lists of blocked and allowed sites. Those sites then need to be frequently maintained. 

This web filter, on the other hand, is easy to manage. Technology administrators only need to perform a simple setup in the beginning. Afterward, they can let the filter do the work. Because the filter uses AI to understand context, administrators don’t have to manually track blocked and allowed sites. 

Understands context

Traditional filters block out entire websites, even if parts of the site can be used for teaching and learning.

With Deledao ActiveScan, presented by Hāpara, entire websites like YouTube don’t need to be blocked. The web filter restricts inappropriate text, images and video within a site. That means educational videos on YouTube are available to teachers and learners and any harmful content is filtered.

Protects student data and information

CIPA requires schools to protect students’ personal information. The web filter works to safeguard students by blocking ads and tracking. It keeps their Google searches anonymous so they aren’t targeted with content based on their searches.

Supports digital citizenship

Teachers don’t have to ask their technology administrator to get a website approved for learning. Teachers can approve a website themselves in the moment with the web filter and personalize those approvals too. For example, if a learner finishes an assignment before the rest of the class the teacher can approve a website with math games for that learner to visit. 

Students can also send their teacher a request to approve a site. This option gives teachers the chance to lead important conversations about digital citizenship. They can talk to learners about how to navigate the internet safely and make good decisions.

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

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