Philosophy and Approach
It is important for districts and others reading this document to understand
the philosophy of the author, for this philosophy has shaped the approach
utilized throughout this Planning Guide. By presenting this philosophy and
approach up-front, it is the author's intention to allow educators reading
this document to able to evaluate the appropriateness of specific guidance
provided in the document as it relates to their particular situation and community.
Certainly, there can be honest disagreement about some of these issues. It
is the author's goal to provide insight that will facilitate thoughtful analysis.
The author would also encourage educators to watch for an upcoming report
to be released by the National Academy Press. This report will be issued by
the National Research Council Committee to Study Tools and Strategies for
Protecting Kids from Pornography and their Applicability to Other Inappropriate
Environments. This Committee has had the opportunity to fully investigate
technologies and other strategies. The report will likely provide excellent
guidance to educators and districts. The report is scheduled for release in
early 2002. Information will be on the National Academy Press web site at:
We, as society, are too often willing to believe that a "technological
fix" will solve the problem. When we believe in the sufficiency of the
"technological fix," we fail to engage in the more important actions
that are necessary to effectively address the underlying concerns. Far too many
decision-makers, educators, and parents believe in a myth -- that the installation
and use of a "technology protection measure" will protect children
against access to potentially harmful material on the Internet. The unfortunate
result of the belief in this myth is false security, which leads to complacency,
which results in the failure to adequately protect our children and prepare
them to use the Internet in a safe and responsible manner.
This is not to say that there is no role for technology tools in the establishment
of an environment that supports the safe and responsible use of the Internet
by young people. Technology can be used to establish safe places for younger
students, and to reinforce accountability on the part of older students. The
concern is that a strategy that places primary reliance on "technology
fixes" will fail to address the far more important issues of education
No technology protection measure is or ever will be 100% effective in protecting
young people from exposure to material that is potentially harmful. There is
simply too much material on the Internet, with more material posted every second,
for any technological system to be truly effective. Virtually every young person
will, at one time or another, have unsupervised access to the Internet through
an unfiltered, unblocked, and unmonitored system. Any time a technology is created
that seeks to block access to material, another technology will emerge to get
around such blocking actions. Technically proficient young people can easily
obtain information on effective strategies to get around these systems.
When schools install the most common type of technology protection measures,
those that blocky by ULR lists or block by content analysis, the result is that
school officials turn over control for the determination of whether or not materials
are appropriate for students to a third party company -- when there is no mechanism
to hold this company accountable for the technical adequacy of its system, the
effectiveness and appropriateness if its blocking decisions, the competency
of the staff making the blocking decisions, or the potential biases that may
emerge in the blocking decision-making process. School officials should not
mistakenly believe that because they have the ability to select or not select
certain blocking categories based on a brief description of the category that
they retain any "real" control.
It has been clearly established that the most common technology protection
measures prevent access by students or teachers to perfectly appropriate, educationally
relevant material. When teachers or students know or believe there is information
pertinent to the subject they are teaching or researching and they are prevented
from accessing that information the result if significant frustration and anger,
which is generally directed at school administration. In such an environment,
the school climate and appropriate respect for school authority suffers greatly.
School administrators must recognize and acknowledge that teachers have far
more education, experience, and expertise in assessing the appropriateness of
material for students. Educators should never be placed in the position of subservience
to a fallible "technology fix."
However, regardless of perceptions regarding effectiveness or ineffectiveness
of such measures, two points are clear:
- Under CIPA, most districts in the country will be forced to install such
technologies. Therefore, attention must be directed at issues pertaining to
the appropriate selection, configuration, and implementation of such measures.
- The more important provisions of CIPA relate to the development of an Internet
safety plan, for it is through the development of such a plan that the district
will address the more important responsibility of preparing young people to
use the Internet in ways that are both safe and responsible, regardless of
the presence or absence of technology protection measures.
Schools are the primary place for young people to learn about using the Internet.
Therefore schools have an obligation to help students learn use the Internet
in ways that are safe and responsible. We must empower young people to independently
handle a wide range of interactions and activities on the Internet that could
be harmful to their safety and well being. In addition to the inadvertent access
of potentially harmful material, these safety concerns include being the target
or recipient of sexual predation, hate group recruitment, invasion of personal
privacy, Internet fraud and scams, harassment, stalking, and harmful speech.
We also must address other issues related to the responsible use of the Internet
by young people. In addition to the intentional access of potentially harmful
material, these issues include copyright infringement, plagiarism, computer
security violations (hacking, spreading viruses), violation of privacy, Internet
fraud and scams, harassment, stalking, and dissemination of harmful speech or
other violent or abusive material. We must prepare young people to understand
their responsibilities as Cybercitizens.
It is also necessary to address issues related to the quality of use of the
Internet. The Internet can become addicting, taking the place of more valuable
activities and interactions, and its use can reduce, rather than enrich, the
quality of life. But the Internet can also be used in ways that are enriching
by providing access to quality information and communication exchanges with
people from around the world. Schools must help young people learn to use the
Internet in ways that are personally enriching and help to prepare them for
success in the future.
As educators, our primary focus must be to help young people learn to use the
Internet in a safe, responsible, and effective manner. In other words, we need
to help young people develop effective filtering and blocking systems that will
reside in the hardware that sits upon their shoulders.