If district officials want to give students the ability to access the web using campus resources, they must be sure to implement a content filtering solution that’s both flexible and robust. Osterman Research’s Michael Osterman says the best solutions will:
- identify objectionable content, such as pornographic images and offensive language;
- detect flesh tones and other indicators of potentially objectionable content;
- block social media, chat room, instant messaging and other types of real-time content;
- offer highly granular blocking capabilities so that students doing research on legitimate topics, such as breast cancer, are allowed to access appropriate content, while making similar (yet inappropriate) content inaccessible;
- have supervisory capabilities so that blocked websites can be reviewed by school officials on a case-by-case basis to weed out “false positives” (such as in the breast cancer example above); and
- have a very high catch rate for images, social media posts, and e-mail, instant messaging and chat room content.
Osterman also recommends that districts employ a cloud-based web filtering solution (or one that’s updated on a nearly real-time basis). “Simple URL filtering tools deployed on premises will block only a fraction of objectionable content,” he says. “Tools that are continually updated are necessary in today’s web environment.”