School Internet filters are a requirement of the Children´s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and, in some states, a requirement of local laws. In order to qualify for grants and E-Rate discounts, schools must implement technology to block harmful website content.
Many states (currently 24) have now introduced their own legislation to ensure minors are protected from obscene website content. Parents are also putting pressure on schools to carefully control the content that can be accessed by their children while at school.
School Internet filters are not mandatory in many parts of the United States, although even schools that do not apply for E-Rate discounts are increasingly deciding to implement website content controls. In addition to ensuring children are prevented from accessing harmful content, school Internet filters are an important cybersecurity defense and can block phishing attacks and malware downloads.
How do School Internet Filters Work?
Each solution differs, although school Internet filters typically involve three levels of control. The most common method used to block website content is the use of blacklists. Blacklists are lists of websites known to be used for phishing, contain malware, or are used to distribute ransomware.
Blacklists can also be used to block inappropriate and illegal website content. For instance, the Internet Watch Foundation maintains a blacklist of all web pages discovered to host images of child sexual abuse. By adding the blacklists to school filtering solutions, all websites and web pages on the lists will be blocked.
Most school Internet filters also allow website content to be blocked with category filters. Categories cover pornography and other adult content, gambling, gaming, and dating websites. Category filters, along with blacklists, are the easiest way of ensuring compliance with CIPA regulations. Most filtering solutions also allow whitelists to be created. Whitelists are exception lists that permit users to visit specific web pages that would otherwise be blocked by category filters.
Some school Internet filters also allow filtering by keywords. If a webpage contains a blocked keyword or exceeds a set percentage of restricted keywords, users will be prevented from gaining access. This control is particularly useful for blocking sites that have yet to be uploaded to blacklists.
Filtering controls can be applied globally for all users or set for different user groups – staff, students, or IT departments for instance. Some solutions also offer time-based controls, allowing school Internet filters to be set up for filtering to take place only during certain hours.
Internet Filtering Solutions for Schools from TitanHQ
The TitanHQ team has worked on email anti-spam solutions for schools, web filtering for education, and email archiving for schools for over 20 years. We have developed a range of award-winning cybersecurity solutions for schools and other educational institutions to keep networks free of malware and protect users from accessing potentially harmful website content.
WebTitan is a powerful content filtering solution that is a perfect match for schools, allowing them to carefully control the Internet content that staff and students can access on all devices, including Chromebooks, Windows computers, and Apple devices. The solution can be installed as a virtual appliance or as a 100% cloud-based solution. Regardless of which deployment option you chose, there is no need to purchase any hardware. All WebTitan school Internet filtering solutions can be run on existing equipment or in a public or private cloud and can protect both wired and wireless networks.
The WebTitan school Internet filter can be installed and configured in minutes, there is a low maintenance overhead, and all updates are performed automatically. School Internet filtering could not be any easier. Filtering the Internet in Schools is simple with WebTitan, but those controls need not end at the school gates. The controls can be extended to students’ homes using the WebTitan On-The-Go (OTG) roaming agent. WebTitan OTG allows filtering controls to be applied on devices that are not connected to the network. For students that means filtering in the classroom, but also at home, or any other location where a student accesses the Internet. The roaming agent can be quickly and easily downloaded and installed on laptops as part of the WebTitan setup process. It creates a Roaming location within WebTitan Cloud for each laptop or device added to the WebTitan solution.
Test WebTitan for Yourself with a Free Trial
WebTitan is currently protecting 10 million students and 2.5 billion DNS requests a day with T-Mobile. With WebTitan, you can quickly and easily protect your students from inappropriate web content, ensure CIPA Compliance and create a safe environment for children.
You can also take advantage of a free trial of the solution to see for yourself how easy it is to use and maintain, and how effective it is at blocking access to content you do not want to be accessed by students, on or off the network.
Do school Internet filters only work within the school grounds?
School Internet filters can be applied to control access to the Internet no matter where a student uses their school-issued laptop. With appliance-based solutions, Internet access occurs via the appliance on-premises, which can result in the slowing of Internet access for students off-premises. Cloud-based Internet filters avoid this problem and can be used to apply controls with no latency no matter where a student attempts to access the Internet.
Do school website filters prevent children from accessing important website content?
School website filters used to be imprecise and tended to over block content due to poor categorization of website content. Today’s internet filters for schools have far more granular controls and the categorization of websites and individual web pages is now highly accurate. It is possible to block adult content without blocking material important for sex education, for example.
Can schools monitor Internet access by individual students?
Yes. Web filters such as WebTitan provide real-time views of Internet access and attempts to access prohibited website content. Instant alerts can be configured, and reports scheduled for this purpose too. Some schools like to be proactive and address potential issues before they become a problem, others choose not to monitor Internet access attempts so closely.
Can children bypass school website filters?
WebTitan incorporates controls to prevent the filtering mechanisms from being bypassed. Anonymizer websites and VPNs could be used, but the solution can be configured to block these anonymizing services. It is also important to lock down laptops to prevent students changing settings that could negate the web filter.
What happens if filtering controls need to be bypassed?
There may be times when Internet content controls need to be relaxed for certain individuals. TitanHQ has developed cloud keys for this purpose. These time-limited keys will allow administrator-defined easing of restrictions without having to change settings for individual users.