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In 2000, Congress enacted the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) to try and stop kids from accessing obscene or harmful content via the Internet. CIPA is required for schools or libraries that receive E-rate discounts for Internet access or internal connections through the E-rate program. In 2001, the FCC issued rules implementing CIPA and those were updated again in 2011. In short, if your school or library wants to receive E-rate funds for Internet access, you have to follow the CIPA guidelines.
Now, what are the guidelines? For such a big, federal program, there are remarkably few rules. Here they are in plain language.
The summary is you need to stop porn and obscene pictures and you need to tell the public that you are going to do it. That’s the technology side; there is another piece, which is your Internet Safety Policy.
The safety policy must address:
Notice that this part of the policy does not need to be technology driven; you just need to have the ability to implement the steps. I’m sure someone on staff would be happy to stand behind the minors and “monitor” their access right?
Schools (but not libraries) also have to have a plan to educate minors about appropriate online behavior “including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms, and cyberbullying awareness and response.”
So in exchange for Federal dollars, you have to follow these rules. Here is where I think it breaks down a bit. CIPA is in place to protect minors, and minors are the ones trying to violate CIPA. It’s like wrestling my 2 year old into her car seat: it’s a fight to get her in there, and as soon as I walk away she starts trying to escape. It’s there for her protection, but she hates it and wants nothing more than to get out. The range of tools that can help minors bypass standard content filters is vast. Proxy software, proxy networks and “browsers on a stick” are easy to find, easy to install and many of them work all too well.
A couple of points to consider:
We at Untangle want to help make your CIPA compliance as easy and effective as possible. Take a look at the blog entry “Keeping inappropriate content out of the classroom” for ideas on how to enforce CIPA compliance.