Inappropriate Content Creeps into Classrooms

Kids are learning a lot more than expected in some classrooms, as a survey found that students are accessing pornography, violent content, music file-sharing, and hate sites from their school computers.

The survey of 200 technology decision-makers, commissioned by Web content filtering solution company St. Bernard Software and conducted by JAS Market Research, revealed that 59 percent reported incidents of students accessing inappropriate Web content at school in the past year. Nearly the same amount of survey participants reported that the number of incidents stayed the same (42 percent) or decreased (41 percent), while 17 percent reported increases.

Especially disconcerting is that nearly half (48 percent) of the respondents from the surveyed small, medium and large school districts in suburban, rural and urban settings in 41 U.S. states represented elementary schools.

Monitoring students’ computer usage can be daunting for teachers, as 48 percent of respondents estimate that kids spend more than two hours per week accessing the Internet during school hours. “Teachers deserve credit for being able to spot inappropriate activity, but it is a challenge,” noted Bob Scheid, spokesperson for St. Bernard Software.

Key obstacles to appropriately filtering student Web content, according to the survey, are: budgetary constraints; not enough training; not enough time/too many other priorities; and lack of support or direction from administration.

The end result are classrooms where students are able to access games (45 percent); porn (39 percent); violent content (25 percent); music file-sharing sites (19 percent); and hate sites (13 percent).

“Despite findings that indicate problems, school districts gave themselves relatively good grades,” said Scheid of indications that 39 percent of respondents awarded their school district an “A” grade for adequately protecting students from inappropriate content on the Internet. The majority, 44 percent, gave themselves a “B” followed by “C” at 15 percent; “D” at 2 percent; and 1 percent for “F.”

Inappropriate content sightings can occur on any computer, as any Internet user knows, and a joint survey from Cerberian, Inc. and SonicWALL Inc. revealed that 75 percent of workers accidentally visited a pornographic Web site at work via pop-up windows (55 percent); misrepresented links (52 percent); misspelled URLs (48 percent); and auto links within emails (23 percent).

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