Monday, August 23, 2010

A Word on Internet Filters

It's the librarian in me, I suppose.  And I understand about federal funding and parental controls and locks on computers.  And I get that there are big bad boogeymen out there in chat rooms and that the internet eats babies and small dogs.  But I am going to complain for a bit about filters on school computers.

When I am preparing a lesson for my computer class and I want to link to a video that happens to be on YouTube, I can't show it my class because some YouTubers post porn or what-have-you.  Fine, so you blocked YouTube.  But then I can get on The Oatmeal (which, that guys doesn't have the cleanest mouth 100% of the time either) to show them "When to Use i.e. in a Sentence" as a way to teach them proper grammar (oh, just take a look around at that website - as funny as all get out, but watch some of it.  Especially the one about Sucking at Facebook.  NSFW, indeed).

Internet filters simply do not work the way you want them to.  They're like airport security - the airport guards can frisk Grandma and take away her knitting needles, but you still can have some wacko shove a bomb in his shorts and get through without a problem.  All filters do is punish the people that follow the rules - but if kids want to get through them, they will.  Witness this article I was given in a class - and a couple of Facebook groups that have instructions on how to get to Facebook and YouTube from school (granted, I haven't tested their methods, but these things do exist).  As far as I can tell, if you try to discourage kids from doing an activity that they do anyway (like check Facebook or play with the Giga pet clipped onto their belt loop - as was popular when I was in middle school), they'll find ways around it.

We've hashed this out in my library classes before, but there's not really anything we can do about it, per se.  I just wanted to gripe about it here because I like using the internet to find interesting things for my classes and the filters make it impossible to find anything worthwhile.  I can plan ahead and download/screencap what I need, but that defeats the purpose of having internet access at school in the first place.  Not to mention it clogs up my hard drive (which, I just got a brand new shiny computer that I'd like to keep nice and shiny (and WORKING) for the next six years or so.)

Bottom Line: Internet filters = FAIL.

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