Elementary Level Internet Filters

by Andrea Ashley, Norfolk Public Schools - LIBS 605

Part 1: Exploration of Frequently Blocked Sites

The first part of this project involved the exploration of frequently blocked sites. These sites included: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, Youtube, ESPN, Blogger, and Skype. Under both a teacher and student login, most sites were blocked with the exception of ESPN, Youtube, and Blogger. ESPN was fully accessible under both logins and Blogger required a Google Account. Youtube was accessible to teachers and Youtube for Education was accessible for students.

Image Attribution: By Michael Dunn~! on Flickr [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Implications for Part 1

In 2012, the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was modified to say that schools were required to, “provide for educating minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms, and cyber-bullying awareness and response" (Federal Communications Commission, para. 3).

  • Providing appropriate access to social media sites and teaching children about acceptable online behavior is one of CIPA’s requirements for school certification.
  • Almost all of these sites are blocked - the explanation provided by the filter was, "Social Networking."
  • Social media can be dangerous, but appropriate use is one of the many responsibilities educators are being asked to take on; the only way to do that is with access.

Website Citation:

Federal Communications Commission. (2014). Children’s Internet Protection Act. Retrieved March 20, 2015, from http://www.fcc.gov/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act

Part 2: Digital Curation Platforms

My Findings...

Access Under Teacher Login:

  • Restricted access to Pinterest and Paper.li depending on the search topic.
  • Restricted access under Livebinders - particularly when attempting to access educational games.
  • Symbaloo - Fully accessible for educational topics, couldn't access Netflix, Pandora, Hulu, or travel sites.
  • Pealtrees, Diigo, Evernote, and Blendspace were all fully accessible.

Access Under Student Login:

  • Restricted access to Livebinders and Symbaloo.
  • Blendspace and Paper.li were fully accessible.
  • No access to Pearltrees, Diigo, or Evernote.

Image Attribution:

By The original uploader was Ninjatacoshell at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Implications for Digital Curation

  • Digital curation tools were relatively accessible under teacher login information.
  • Educators will be able to access a plethora of curation tools and the resources they supply.
  • Having the school librarian use these tools to gather and share resources with teachers is a viable option.
  • Students had next to no access to digital curation tools.
  • Students will not be able to use such tools to create and share their own curations of resources, share research, or critically evaluate and organize websites.
  • Teachers need to be mindful as some of the curation tools can lead to questionable material when accessed under an educator's login.

Part 3: Internet Search Results

What Are You Looking For?

Results of searching the following topics were similar under teacher and student logins.

  • Breast Cancer - Blogs, news articles, medical websites, forums, and images (with Google Safe Search) were all fully accessible. Could not access shopping sites that supported Breast Cancer Awareness.
  • Contraception - blogs, forums, news articles, medical websites, and images were all fully accessible.
  • Gangs - dictionary definitions, wikipedia pages, news articles, and images were fully accessible. Videos on this content were inaccessible to teachers and students.
  • Games - Access restricted. Images available and some educational gaming sites were available. Most of the "gaming sites" were blocked by the filter and labeled as "entertainment". Under teacher login - could access Youtube videos with "games" in the titles (Pewdiepie, SmooshGames, etc.).
  • Itgetsbetter.org - Restricted access under both logins. Could access the site, but all videos were blocked.

Teachers just use caution - Safe Search was very effective, but always be mindful of what students are looking at.

Video Attribution:

[Jacob Sykes]. (2009, April, 8). Rockapella - Where In The World is Carmen Sandiego [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozYg8vDTmkc

Rockapella-Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego

Websense 2.0

General Products
  • Specialize in internet security across multiple platforms.
  • Threat Assessment software and Encryption Addon packages.
  • Image Analysis, Mobile Device Security, Cloud Data Security.

What Can They Offer Us?

  • Products filter inappropriate content, block malware, and provide controlled access to social media sites.
  • Customizable filters set to: specific users, time of day, or selective video filtering specifically for Youtube Education.


  • Education section does not specifically highlight which products would be recommended for a school.
  • Website language is more "tech friendly" than "consumer friendly."
  • Requires access to a salesman, or requires district's IT specialists to sift through the site to find which products will work best for us.
  • Additional safety addons cost more money.

Website Citation:

McCormack, J. (2015). Websense. Retrieved March 20, 2015, from http://www.websense.com/content/k-12-education-solutions.aspx?intcmp=nav-mm-solutions-industry-k12

What is Acceptable and Who Decides?

Norfolk Public School’s Acceptable Use Policy clearly outlines three broad categories of materials that will be filtered from the internet:

1.child pornography, as set out in Virginia Code § 18.2-374.1:1 or as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 2256;
2.obscenity, as defined in Virginia Code § 18.2-372 or 18 U.S.C. § 1460;
3.material that Norfolk Public Schools deems to be harmful to juveniles, as defined in Virginia Code § 18.2-390, material that is harmful to minors, as defined in 47 U.S.C. § 254(h)(7)(G), and material that is otherwise inappropriate for minors.

  • The policy also states that the Superintendent and anyone claimed as "designee" shall ensure that filters are put in place and maintained.
  • Individual school administrators are tasked with monitoring teacher and student use of the internet.
  • Pg. 242 (Section 10-20) Media Services Handbook - supplies teachers with a form to request that a site be blocked or allowed.
  • Requests granted will block or allow a site on a global scale across the district.
  • Electronic, fillable form is accessible from teacher desktops and is submitted to both district and building IT specialists for review and consensus.

Website Citation:

King, S. (2013). Acceptable use policy for computers. Norfolk Public Schools. Retrieved March 20, 2015, from http://departments.nps.k12.va.us/it/blog/acceptable-use-policy-for-computer-systems/