Just yesterday I wrote a post about Facebook in the classroom. Today, the issue is banned websites and whether the banned websites of today are similar to the banned books of previous generations.
I’m not talking about pornography sites, sites filled with adult language, or sites with violent or gruesome images. I’m talking about YouTube, National Geographic, Twitter and even Google. While some schools around the country are working to embrace the Internet and incorporate web searches into the curriculum, others are banning many websites altogether and shying away from teaching kids about responsible surfing.
New York City's Department of Education recently blocked Google Images for what it called "objectionable content." Legislators from Missouri to Florida have banned teachers from connecting with students online. And in the large majority of schools that block access to pornography (as they rightly should) students cannot search for things like breast cancer statistics because the word "breast" would not make it through the filter.
Many have likened the knee jerk website regulations with the banned books of yesteryear. The big fear about letting kids search online is that they may accidently stumble across inappropriate material. But aren’t we doing kids a disservice by not teaching them how to avoid this stuff in the first place? Google searches are here to stay, and if schools can’t help kids learn how to safely search for educational informational online, who will?
The American Library Association discourages schools and libraries from banning websites and social media, saying such prohibition "does not teach safe behavior and leaves youth without the necessary knowledge and skills to protect their privacy or engage in responsible speech."
This fall, a handful of schools and libraries across the country will celebrate Banned Sites Day, led by New Canaan High School librarian Michelle Luhtala. Luhtala hopes that by drawing attention to banned sites, she can remind teachers and school administrators not to use blanket practices for website blocking out of fear.
No one is saying that schools should allow students to search for porn all day — but there are reasonable filters that can be used to block this objectionable material without blocking access to educational information. Blocking sites like National Geographic, YouTube and Google Images filters out more good than bad and keeps kids from learning where and how to find information that’s appropriate.
Which (if any) websites are banned at your child's school?