CIPA: Protecting Schoolkids from Net Danger

     Imagine a school or library that has access to the web. What would that school need to do to protect kids from internet porn, gambling, etc. ? The federal government has already considered this and passed a law called "The Child Internet Protection Act" (CIPA) and the "Neighborhood Internet Protection Act" were passed by Congress on April 20, 2001 to address issues concerning questionable websites, such as porn or gambling or hacking, that children can get free access too. It is sad, but true that these questionable websites sometimes target children. These laws basically impose certain certifications and requirements on schools and libraries who receive funds from the E-rate Federal internet access and connection discount pricing package. Even if a school does not receive federal funds, it is highly advisable to restrict certain types of internet access. You can still be sued if you do not protect the kids from questionable material. 

     How does one become CIPA compliant? If you just block a list of websites, it won't work because the bad guys are always jumping from url to url and it would be an impossible chore for one person to scan the net for all sites of a banned category. So, you go out and buy a filtering and/or blocking device that plugs into the system between where your internet service enters the building and the first router in line after that. These usually (but not always) come with a subscription to monitor the incoming material and check it against a constantly updated list of banned websites. WebSense will sell you a server, for several thousand dollars or more, complete with custom CIPA compliant programming for your particular school or library, which includes the subscription. Sounds ok, right? Surprise, you are still not CIPA compliant! Yes, you have stopped all of the incoming questionable material and have severely restricted the kids’ access to Facebook and other social media while at school. At the same time you have restricted You Tube, but can still use it for selected very good and educational videos on You Tube. But YOU ARE STILL NOT CIPA COMPLIANT!

CIPA: Protecting kids from internet danger

      To be fully CIPA and NCIPA compliant you must: 

  • post notice with your community and invite them to make comments and have input on your Internet Safety Policy. You must certify that your Internet Safety Policy will include monitoring of the online activity of these minors. 
  • You are also required, by the Protecting Children article in the 21st Century Act to certify that you will provide said minors with education concerning appropriate online behavior, interacting with others on social networking sites and chat rooms, and cyber bullying awareness and response.
     Then there are 5 more requirements that need to be addressed in your Internet Safety Policy. 
  • There can be no possible access by minors to inappropriate material from the internet. 
  • There must be complete safety and security while minors access email, chat rooms and any other forms of “electronic” communications. 
  • There can be NO UNAUTHORIZED access, including so-called “hacking” or any other unlawful activities by minors while they are online. 
  • There can be NO UNAUTHORIZED disclosure, use and dissemination of personal information regarding said minors. 
  • Finally, there must be complete restriction of access by minors to any internet materials that may be deemed “harmful” to them. 

This list is easy to run afoul of. Even in the best schools, it is impossible to closely supervise the children 100% of the time. But it is better to have a policy and safeguards in place to deal with the times that kids try to test the limits, than to deal with it after the fact.  For assistance with the technical side of this issue, please call or email us. 

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Peter Heinicke

Peter Heinicke

Chicago area ERP consultant with over 40 years of experience in Sage 300, Sage Pro, Quickbooks ERP and other systems

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