Filtering and Blocking Web Content in Schools

Perhaps I’m missing the whole point of Raiford Guins’ argument in Edited Clean Version but are there perhaps instances when control might be desirable? On a macro level, I understand his concern that control, through blocking, filtering, sanitizing and other forms, is now “exercised indiscriminately, ubiquitously” (5). Guins cites a personal example of how his PS2 infantilizes him by displaying the message “The Parental Settings of This Player Prohibit Play” (xi). New digital technologies disguise control so that it would seem that the user is given choice, even when control is already designed in the devices (for example, the V-Chip). Giving choice to the user would seem to be liberating, and is aligned with neoliberal practices of less government and institutional supervision, placing control in the hand of the individual. All these situations contribute towards Guins’ overall tone of that control equals bad.

The situation I’m specifically thinking of is in the primary and secondary school system. Guins addresses filtering in schools in his chapter on filtering, noting that after the passage of the Children’s Internet Protection Act, schools were forced to add filtering software or risk losing benefits that enabled them to buy technology for the classroom. The content that is deemed “appropriate” is dictated by “family values.” That is, it would seem that filtering web content enables the family to “spread its tentacles” (74) into the public domain.

Now, I remember how irritating it was in high school to encounter web blockers on various sites, and how exciting it was when it was down (hello, Facebook. As a side note, the featured image of this post is exactly what used to pop up if you tried to access Facebook at my high school). I never encounter this problem, but I can understand how filters can be problematic for research or preventing students from accessing information and resources, such as LGBT issues, that may not be in line with “family values.” I’m not saying that this is not a serious problem, and I recognize that there are a lot of flaws with filtering technologies. But it would seem logical to me that some family standards bleed into educational institutions, at least in early education (I consider “early” to be something like K-6. I agree with my fellow blogger Tyler’s post that there is some point when children should be old enough to make their own viewing choices). I assume parents send their children to school with expectation that certain values and morals will be consistent across home and school.

I guess this is Guins’ point: family is determining what we as a whole society deem culturally acceptable. But in this situation, is that such a bad thing? Some parents were pretty angry that my 4th grade teacher showed us the World Trade Center falling on September 11th. Parents have some rights, I think, to what their child has access to outside of the home, particularly in an institution like school. The teacher cannot personally monitor every individual student’s every web interaction, nor should that be the teacher’s job. Thus, it makes sense to me that control, in this instance, has its merits.

Guins, Raiford. Edited Clean Version. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009. Web. 10 November 2013.


One thought on “Filtering and Blocking Web Content in Schools

  1. Pingback: It Happened to Me: Internet Surveillance and the Family | WIIH Fellows: New Media, New Knowledge

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