How well do schools monitor the laptops they give to students? Perhaps not as well as we think!

School laptops tested

Recently, the Mississippi State Auditor’s Office randomly tested 150 laptops from 18 middle and high schools.

The audit was carried out as a test to see how well schools were following the requirements of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA.) In order to receive federal funding, schools are required to use filtering and monitoring as a means to protect children from harmful online content.

Explicit content was found on 20% of these computers! Although all of the schools used a filtering system, the system –or the way it’s used– has been failing to keep pornography away from students.

In a press event, Auditor Stacey Pickering revealed that many of the laptops showed signs of “extensive searches” for pornographic content and indicated there is “good reason to believe…most of it was conducted by the students” rather than parents or siblings who may have used the device when it was brought home.

As Pickering states, many parents think “’The school gives my kid this computer. Surely, they’re protecting my kid…The federal government requires it.” But this recent audit shows that having a federal requirement does not ensure compliance to it.

According to WREG news, Malorie Lifforth, a parent and former teacher, wasn’t shocked about the audit’s findings:

It’s disappointing. I don`t think it’s surprising. I taught 3rd grade and I found that my 3rd graders even know how to get through loopholes and they can access things.

Lifforth is right. Just last month in Jacksonville Florida an 8-year-old girl was exposed to porn in her 3rd grade classroom. All around the country, there are reports of pornography making its way into elementary schools — even on school issued devices.

Get the Ultimate Guide to Online Safety at School. CLICK HERE or on the image at the bottom of the post.

No easy solutions for school administrators

Many parents are quick to blame schools when children access pornography through school devices. But school administrators are trapped by a number of factors that leave them with insufficient resources to solve this problem:

  1. No filtering system is foolproof. In other words, even if a school is using the best system available, that system will still be insufficient to guarantee kids won’t have access to pornography. For every system, there is a way around and kids are savvy enough to find it. A tech-based solution alone will not be enough to solve the problem of pornography exposure in schools.
  2. Most schools feel ill-equipped to address the topic of pornography with students. Although most schools have some type of internet safety curriculum, these curriculum packages address everything but pornography. If the topic of pornography is addressed, it is usually addressed without using the word pornography and without any discussion of pornography’s negative impacts.
  3. Schools think of pornography as a topic connected with sex education. Most schools must comply with specific laws about when sex ed can be taught and what should be included. Schools are concerned about their legal liability and the reaction of parents if they try to broach this topic.

So what’s the answer?

  1. School districts and parents need to demand that internet safety curriculum include clear information about how pornography harms kids. Schools need to continue seeking and using the best filtering and monitoring systems available while acknowledging – and helping parents understand – this won’t be enough to keep kids away from pornography. Kids need to be taught WHY filters are in their best interest. Kids deserve to know that pornography is harmful for their developing brain. Merely telling kids they shouldn’t look at pornography because it’s against the school rules is a gross underestimate of the powerful pull of pornography!
  2. Schools need to teach kids what is expected of them if they accidentally come across or are shown pornography. Schools need a safe reporting system. No child should ever worry they are going to get in trouble if they alert the teacher that pornography appeared on their screen. And all children should be taught that no one should show pornography to a child and kids should never show pornography to other students.
  3. Pornography exposure is a safety issue not merely a topic that falls under sex education and we need to address it as such. As the book Good Pictures Bad Pictures proves, it is possible to warn kids– even very young children– about the dangers of pornography without talking about sex. And we need to start warning kids in early elementary school because many young students are being exposed.

Middle schools and high schools need to provide students more thorough information about the negative health consequences of pornography. Watch this video clip from the documentary Is Free Porn Destroying Our Brains to see how grateful New Zealand high school students are for clear and direct information:

The importance of education about pornography from Liz Walker on Vimeo.

Teach students the risks of pornography

Pornography is impacting students in every school, but few young people ever hear that pornography is NOT risk-free. As a society, we are negligent if we fail to teach this to kids. Read 21 Powerful Reasons to Warn Your Kids About Porn and let’s start giving kids valid reasons to make the choice to look away. Ultimately, we cannot filter our way out of kids using porn. We must persuade kids that filters are an ally to respect not an obstacle to get around. This will only happen when kids understand that pornography can harm them and those they love.

The Ultimate Guide to Online Safety at School

Get your FREE 10-point ChecklistThis guide will give you the essential information you need to determine if your child’s school is safe. Click on the image below:

 

 

Claudine Gallacher
Claudine Gallacher, MA, is the Social Media Guru at Protect Young Minds and was the writing coach for Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids. Claudine is enthusiastic about teaching parents how to empower kids with the skills they need to reject pornography. To reach parents, she writes, researches, edits, speaks, and markets. Claudine is married and has three great kids who support her work. Contact Claudine on Twitter @ProtectYM or email claudine@protectyoungminds.org.
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