An order released by the Federal Communications Commission in 2011 is due to take effect on July 1, 2012. Dubbed the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, it expands CIPA rules to include social media applications such as Facebook , MySpace and YouTube, tying them to E-Rate funds that schools count on for much needed technology acquisitions.
The new Act requires that school district policies include the instruction of minors in the safe and appropriate use of social networking sites and chat rooms. It aims to provide direction to students concerning their behavior when interacting with others on these popular sites – surveys show more than 20 million minors used Facebook in the last year alone.
Compliance with the new rules will directly affect the distribution of E-Rate funds. And like CIPA, schools will have to put policies in place to prove they are abiding by the new rules.
Here are some details:
- The new requirements are in addition to existing Children’s Internet Protection requirements including Internet filtering technology, staff, student and parent education, etc.
- In addition to mandating policies, the FCC specifically points to sites such as Facebook and YouTube and confirms that these sites are potentially harmful to minors but not harmful in and of themselves.
- Social networking sites do not fall into the category of websites that must be blocked
- The FCC acknowledges that social networking sites may have the potential to support student learning
The upshot of all this is that by the July 1st deadline, “School Boards will have to create or update current Internet Use policies to include wording that they are teaching Internet safety”. Schools are also encouraged to provide education and training not only on the appropriate use of these sites but on their potential for enhancing the learning experience. New resources such as YouTube for Schools highlight the wealth of relevant educational content the Internet holds – and all of it free to educators.
What is the Best Approach for Schools?
An important research site that tracks cyberbullying has reported on the upcoming FCC deadline and poses some important questions schools should answer in order to gauge their readiness to meet the new criteria:
- Is your district positioned to address all of these requirements?
- How specifically are you making this happen?
- What will you use to educate staff and students?
- What protocols are currently in place as it relates to prevention, investigation, and response and are they ideal?
All or Nothing is Not the Answer
What the new rules makes clear is that the FCC is not advocating that schools block all access to social networking platforms. On the contrary, they take the position that social media sites are not inherently dangerous and in fact can contribute to an enriched learning environment. The new rules encourage the appropriate and rewarding use of these sites and schools that focus on teaching students to benefit from their use will be the winners in all ways – E-Rate funds, better learning environments and more engaged students.
iPrism Social Media Security and YouTube for Schools Support is the Solution
EdgeWave’s new iPrism Social Media Security, which is an add-on to iPrism Web Security, allows schools to monitor, filter and report on student interactions with social media applications such as Facebook, Twitter, and others so that rather than having to block access completely, schools can assure their safe and productive use. This exclusive service means that schools will be able to track online activity and block attempts at cyberbullying and other inappropriate content, while keeping other access to social media applications open. Schools that deploy iPrism with this new service will be able to:
- Allow students full access to popular social media applications while keeping access and interactions consistent with school acceptable use and the new CIPA policies
- Eliminate harmful or inappropriate content from appearing within social media applications. Content that is blocked per school policy will be eliminated from news feeds, posts and messages while appropriate content is still available.
- Rich policy management interface provides granular control of social media content at the application level for real-time control over activity on your network
- Delivered with out-of-the box policy templates that can be customized to fit a school’s individual requirements
- Integrated, customizable reporting so schools can track and log student interactions with Web 2.0 applications
The new service is controlled via the iPrism Web Security interface and is in-the-cloud, so it can be enabled easily. Call an iPrism Representative or your iPrism Account Manager for pricing.