Effective web filtering is vital to ensuring K-12 student safety. It’s also an essential and statutory requirement under the U.S. Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and the Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) statutory guidance in the UK.
Because of the requirement for school web filtering, you likely already have a school web filter in place. But is simply checking the box on compliance enough?
Furthermore, you have plenty of other priorities. So the question is: why would you spend time questioning the effectiveness of your web filter?
Because your school web filter has the ability to make your students safer and your job a little easier.
Perhaps you’re still using a web filter appliance that lacks the flexibility you need. Or maybe your school web filter is falling short in other ways. But when it comes to keeping your students safe online, there’s no need to settle for an inadequate web filtering solution. You can and should prioritize choosing the best possible filter for your needs and your students’ digital safety.
Here are five of the most important questions to consider when evaluating how effective your school web filter really is.
Does Your School Web Filter Work with All Device Types?
With so many device types, operating systems, and browser options, your filter needs to have all bases covered. In addition to meeting your current technology requirements, you’ll want to choose a school web filter that’s flexible enough to grow with you.
Your success hinges on having a thorough understanding of your specific requirements, then scrutinizing how well your school web filter meets them.
- Is your web filter able to cover all of your students’ devices?
- Can it support BYOD and guest networks?
- How well does it support your specific authentication requirements?
- Can it support iOS devices?
If you support iPads specifically or may in the future, you’ll want to pay extra attention to your provider’s ability to address the filtering challenges of school iPads. For example, being able to support user-level reporting without requiring the student to login is not just helpful but a necessity, especially if you must support younger students.
Does Your School Web Filter Automatically Scan and Categorize New Websites?
An estimated 252,000 new websites are created every single day, and many of them are not suitable for your students. You’re expected to shield them from all inappropriate websites, but keeping block lists up to date is an impossible task.
Be sure to question how your filter handles new sites. With the right school web filter, you can rest assured that it’s doing the heavy lifting by automatically scanning, blocking, and categorizing potentially harmful websites in real time.
Does Your Filter Integrate Seamlessly with Student Wellness Monitoring Software?
Keeping kids safe online is just the first step when it comes to supporting your students and setting them up for success. If your students’ wellness and mental health aren’t also being addressed, their availability to learn is compromised and their academic outcomes will suffer.
As districts struggle to hire enough school counselors and student support staff, your technology team can come to the rescue. Student wellness monitoring gives your student services teams and counselors the ability to identify students who are struggling mentally or emotionally so they can intervene quickly.
When your school web filter and student wellness monitoring software are integrated, you can provide your student services teams with additional context into a student’s online activities. This extra information can be invaluable in helping them quickly identify and investigate at-risk students to intervene before a situation gets worse.
Does Your Web Filter Offer Customizable Policies for Different Users at Different Times?
As with most things, one size rarely fits all when it comes to web filtering policies. What works for one class or group will not work for another, and the level of access your student users need doesn’t match the requirements of your staff users. If your web filter doesn’t give you the flexibility to customize group policies, you’re creating more work for your or your tech team.
On the flip side, when your school web filter supports customizable group policies, you can create multiple user groups, each with their own level of access and without needing to modify any existing organizational structures that are in place. Having multiple block / allow lists is also invaluable, as is being able to apply granular controls to these lists or provide time-based access for research classes or afterschool clubs.
Finally, your web filter should make easy work of creating and managing these lists and policies. Double check you can control all of these elements from a single interface to keep things streamlined.
Is Your Web Filter Designed Specifically with K-12 Schools In Mind?
As an IT professional, your day-to-day workload is busy enough. Your time is valuable and you need to juggle many competing priorities. Adding complicated and time-consuming processes to your to-do list is the last thing you need.
When your school web filter is built with K-12 in mind, you can avoid many time-consuming tasks and complex workarounds. Even if your school or district has tens of thousands of devices, a web filter designed specifically for schools will be able to handle the volume and variety of users from the get-go. A built-for-purpose school web filter should check the boxes on the four previous features mentioned here, too.
Make the Smart, Informed Choice When Choosing Your School Web Filter
When you already have a filter in place, you’ve checked the box on compliance. It’s tempting to consider your bases covered and move on to other priorities.
But not all web filters are created equal. Choosing the right school web filter for your district will keep your students safer and provide time-saving capabilities and features that make your job a little easier.
If you’re realizing that your school web filter may be falling short, it’s time to consider other options. Our school web filter buyer’s guide provides a helpful framework you can follow to identify your unique requirements and find the right school web filter to meet them.