As the 1:1 initiative (a computer device for every student in the classroom) envelops all school districts around the globe, it can be difficult for administrators and educators to manage. Although there can be problems associated with having computers everywhere in school, the benefits far outweigh the negatives, as long as educators know how to correctly approach the problems that will spring up almost immediately.
One such problem is the possibility of students having access to questionable websites and their social media accounts while using school-supplied devices. In fact, the government is making its presence felt with this issue. The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), passed in 2000, makes it mandatory that K-12 schools and libraries¹ use measures, such as internet filters and other programs, to protect students from obscene or harmful content online. CIPA also requires a school’s Internet Safety Policy to address online access to inappropriate content, student safety on direct communication channels, unlawful activity on school devices, and unauthorized disclosure of personally identifiable information for students.
Why Should You Block Websites on School Computers?
As an educator and administrator, keeping your students away from dangerous or distracting content in the classroom is likely top of mind. According to the EducationSuperHighway 2016 State of the States report, 34.9 million students in the U.S. have internet access at school and meet the minimum internet access goal set by the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC). Technology usage is growing by leaps and bounds, so it is something to take seriously in order to stay ahead of any problems.
Although there are numerous computer devices that schools will choose for their districts, Chromebooks are the device of choice for most schools because they are relatively inexpensive while still providing everything that students and educators will need. More than half of all schools use Chromebooks and the Google education apps, along with Gmail. From 2016 to 2017, Chromebook usage grew between 41-54 percent among students. (Interestingly, Apple used to be favored by many districts when the 1:1 initiative first started going into effect, but the price of the devices quickly eclipsed what the schools had to spend in their budget.)
How to Block Websites
Depending upon the device and the search engine students are using, there are various ways you can block websites relatively quickly.
How to block a site on Google
Google has extensions that make it possible to block a URL on Chrome in just a few clicks. The BlockSite extension that you can add from the web store will enable you to customize and control what the students are seeing on their devices.
How to block a website on Windows
Windows 10 allows you to create children’s accounts and set up parental controls. Just by going into the menu and adding a child’s account, you can instantly limit what they are seeing.
In addition, you may enter into the Microsoft account page and set up preferences so a student can only view the websites that are on the allowed list. This could come in handy for young students who only need access to a few websites; but for older students that need to constantly do research online, an allow list might not work too well.
How to block websites on Firefox
Mozilla Firefox is one of the most popular web browsers available, with about 250 million current users. It is a versatile browser that does a good job protecting data and eliminating malware downloads. Plus, it is great for browsing and researching purposes.
By going into the Tools menu and clicking on Add-ons, you can locate Block Site after a quick search that will allow you to block the sites that you don’t want a child to have access to.
How GoGuardian can help block a website in Chrome and other browsers
GoGuardian offers multiple education software options that will enable educators and administrators to monitor student activity, provide multi-layered filtering solutions, and deliver the best classroom management measures that help ensure all students are safe from questionable content and sites.
For instance, by enabling Restrictive Mode, school and district administrators can prevent access to any website that is not on the filtering list. You can verify that students are only allowed to view what you want them to. In addition, if you want to eliminate many possible websites at once from being viewed, you can use the GoGuardian Wildcards and filter by keywords and terms. Rather than placing in the exact URLs that you do not want the students to visit, you can prevent thousands of websites from being viewed instantly with key terms in Wildcards.
With GoGuardian Teacher’s Block Mode Scene, students will only be able to see what you want them to. You can limit not only the websites, but also allow them to view one or two sections of a website if this is what you desire for a specific class. Using Scenes is perfect for an educator who is teaching toward a specific lesson plan, especially if you have URL blacklists. Teachers can also unblock websites—or allow sites that they want students to access. Once the preferred sites are unblocked, the lesson can continue and the students can stay on-task.
How to block YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Tumblr, and Google Play
There are several reasons why YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Tumblr, Google Play, and other sites should be blocked on a school device that students use daily. Not only can they be disruptive in and out of class, but they can also lead to shenanigans that schools wouldn't want occurring on campus. For instance, Snapchat was specifically created to send messages and pictures that automatically get deleted once they are viewed, which could become concerning for parents of young children.
Trying to block each website individually will take years, as there are approximately 1.5 billion websites currently available on the internet. Using GoGuardian software to block any websites that use certain keywords will only take minutes. Despite being associated with off-task video content, YouTube can serve as a learning tool when the appropriate channels are accessed, which isn’t always the case. Teachers who are trying to keep their students on-task can block YouTube channels that students frequent, allowing on the channels that support the students’ digital learning program.
Although you can block these websites by using the ways listed above, you can also ensure that students don’t have the ability to add apps to their devices. For educators who want to know how to block Facebook, GoGuardian can be installed on all school devices to help keep this content off student devices. If there is any question about what students are viewing, administration and educators have the ability to view the history of the devices.
How to block Google Image search
A quick image search using Google could have controversial pictures being displayed if certain words are present. With Google Chrome, you can block all images on all web pages. Simply click the three dots on the right of the screen and then go through Settings —> Advanced —> Content and then to Images. You can then change it to “Do not show any images.”
Mozilla Firefox can block all images from being shown by opening the web browser, typing about:config in the address bar, and then pressing Enter. It will probably show you a warning message of some sort, but click on "I accept the risk!" Next, type default.image in the Search box and look for permissions.default.image. It will be set to 1, as that is the default setting. By switching it to 2, you will stop all images from loading on every website while using Firefox.
Internet Explorer makes it very simple to block all images from being viewed. You can go into File, then Internet Option, and then click on Advanced tab. Go down to the multimedia section and uncheck show pictures.
GoGuardian can block all images from a Google Image search by adding *tbm=isch* to your block list on the Wildcard. You may also block specific Google searches by adding *q=term* to your Wildcard, but instead of the word term, type in the word you want to block for the image searches.
Choosing GoGuardian for Blocking Websites
Will there be hiccups when introducing technology to entire school districts? Definitely. There will be those students who try to get around the filters, especially older students, but there are additional things you can do to combat against it.
The key is to not wait until there is an issue in your district with students viewing questionable content online using your devices. The last thing you want is for hundreds of concerned parents contacting administrators and school board members wondering what exactly is going on at your school. Be proactive and reach out to the providers that can provide you the right software for your needs. Companies like GoGuardian specialize in solutions for these needs. Request more info or watch a demo of GoGuardian Admin’s web filtering solution.
¹ CIPA applies to schools and libraries using E-Rate discounts. E-Rate is the commonly used name for the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund, which is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The program provides discounts to assist schools and libraries in the United States to obtain affordable telecommunications and internet access.