Internet filtering 2.0: intellectual freedom at school

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 10.55.42 AMBy Sadia Ghazi

The primary purpose of this article by Barbara A. Jansen is to outline the variety of policies that were passed to police internet access in schools. These policies were passed to ensure internet content was not “harmful to minors”. The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) defined “harmful to minors” as “any picture, image, graphic image file, or other visual depiction that taken as a whole and with respect to minors, appeals to a prurient interest in nudity, sex, or excretion; depicts, describes, or represents, in a patently offensive way with respect to what is suitable for minors” (p. 50).

While it makes sense to ensure protection for minors from the harms of the internet, limiting internet access also limits the students from understanding the diverse use of the in internet. Nowadays, even elementary school students have social media accounts whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.

It is to everyone’s benefit to teach students of all ages about internet safety rather than scaring them off and having them find out the hard way. We live in a society where a majority of our information is on the internet such as college or job applications or research in every field. In order for today’s students to succeed in school and in their careers they need to have more knowledge about how the internet works, what it contains, and how to navigate it.

Wikid GRRLS aims to educate girls in Detroit Public Schools about the internet, more specifically Wikipedia. It is crucial to teach students about keeping their profiles, pictures, and written thoughts safe when going online. One of the ways to teach this is to learn more about the variety of social media accounts that the students already have and what measures they have already taken to keep their profiles safe.

Limiting internet access in schools only allows students to browse the internet outside of school without any knowledge of how to fight against threats online. Fear should not be a strategy used to teach students about the internet. A more useful method of teaching students about internet safety is by showing them how they can control their contributions to the internet. Wikid GRRLS allows young girls to have their own wiki spaces to create and edit and hence to practice contributing online in a safe space.

Sadia Ghazi is a Wayne State University honors student majoring in psychology; she is also debating in the Wayne State Debate Team. In the Wikid GRRLS project she teaches middle school girls online skills in Detroit Public Schools this semester.


Jansen, B. A. (2010). Internet filtering 2.0: Checking intellectual freedom and participatory practices at the schoolhouse door. Journal of American Association of School Librarians, 39(1), 46-53.

Image source: Journal of American Association of School Librarians


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