Finding a middle ground

Today’s Topeka Capital Journal featured an article about the city of Topeka blocking web sites for its employees. (City Tightens Control of Employee Internet Use) The article indicates that ‘social networking’ sites such as YouTube and Twitter are being blocked to prevent exposure to viruses and malware. The article concludes by indicating that they plan for “cataloguing and safely providing employees access to YouTube videos that have business value related to training and education.” This article further implies that schools are currently doing this.

However, I sincerely doubt that schools have the personnel time to ‘catalog and safely provide access’ to YouTube videos of educational value. Nor would most schools have the network capacity to store these videos. Many school districts do block access to YouTube. Instead of automatically blocking the site, NVHS has elected to teach the concept of appropriate use. Since YouTube provides free access to news reports, historical clips, science demonstrations and how-to videos, it is a great classroom resource. Thus, we have elected to utilize YouTube to support the educational program.

The IT department for the City of Topeka has argued that YouTube and other social networking sites exposes their network to malware. Nemaha Valley High School has experienced its share of exposure to malware. However, that exposure has NOT come from YouTube or any other social networking site. Instead, it has been thru the use of legitimate educational web sites that have been hijacked. As the August 21, 2011 USA Today article, SpyEye Hacker Toolkit to Lead Surge in Hyperattcks, points out, hackers are targeting websites of smaller merchants and professionals – those that don’t have internet security experts on staff. This shows that an Internet filter is an ineffective way of preventing exposure to viruses and malware.

It is my sincere hope that Nemaha Valley High School will be able to continue to make its filtering decisions based on the educational value of a site.

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