Supporting digital citizenship through content filtering

Today’s teachers have the challenging job of preparing students for their future careers — without knowing what those 21st century careers will look like. The World Economic Forum forecasts that 65% of primary school aged children will occupy job positions that do not exist yet.

The workforce is seeing a monumental shift, and while much is unknown, it is clear that roles involving AI, and machine learning will continue to trend upward. With an estimated 400 – 800 million jobs slated to be lost by 2030 to automation and fewer workers with a higher education, a shift in educational focus and skills taught may be necessary to support the future workforce.  

To prepare for this uncertainty, teachers are finding ways to instill students with digital citizenship skills that will serve them no matter what the future brings. Here’s how a web content filter can help. 

The elements of digital citizenship 

Often, digital citizenship is mistakenly thought of as using proper digital etiquette. In truth, digital citizenship more broadly refers to the “proficient, responsible, and respectful use of digital technology across nine areas: digital access, etiquette, commerce, rights and responsibilities, literacy, law, communication, health and wellness, and security.”   

In other words, students need to know the rules of engagement for healthy digital interactions as well as the technology skills and access to navigate the digital world proficiently. One way for students to develop this proficiency is to practice using technology with guidance and guardrails in place. Web filters can help provide this structure.  

Web filters can help build digital citizenship in every area 

Web filters can place safe boundaries on students’ technology usage, allowing students to practice digital citizenship skills with less likelihood of causing harm to themselves, other students, or the school network.  

By limiting the content students can access, automatically deterring malicious content, and flagging concerning student conversations, schools can foster an environment in which digital citizenship can flourish. 

In fact, web filters can help facilitate digital citizenship across all nine competencies: 

  1. Access – Schools often rely on federal funding to cover or supplement their technology purchases. One of the most popular federal funding programs, E-Rate, requires schools to use a web filter as a condition of receiving funds. These funds help more schools provide technology access to their students, making web filters a vital key in supporting digital access. 
  1. Etiquette – Digital etiquette takes practice, partly because text-based interactions lack tonal cues and can be misconstrued. Part of teaching respectful interactions means teaching students to recognize and stop cyberbullying. Of course, some students may still choose to engage in cyberbullying, which is why schools need a way to identify bullying incidents and intervene. Web filters with keystroke alerting can help by notifying schools of digital student conversations that contain elements of cyberbullying. 
  1. Commerce – It’s unlikely students will make purchases from their school devices, but if they do, web filters can ensure they’re limited to appropriate websites. Schools can choose to block access to commerce sites that sell firearms, drugs and alcohol, pornography, and other inappropriate products, in order to keep students’ online purchases safe and appropriate. Web filters’ threat detection capabilities also are useful here, as they can block malware that might steal credit card data during a transaction. 
  1. Rights and responsibilities – Freedom of speech is an important right that students often learn about during digital citizenship discussions. Part of that discussion may focus on the responsible use of free speech and the social consequences of using free speech to promote hate or violence. Teachers can point out that the school’s web filter is an example of a legal limitation on free speech. It protects kids from malicious messages within their learning environment. 
  1. Literacy – Digital literacy includes learning how to use technology safely. Web filters reinforce these lessons by giving students strong boundaries, teaching them which behaviors and content are safe (and allowed by the filter), and which behaviors are risky (and blocked). 
  1. Law – Law as it relates to digital citizenship not only includes following judicial laws but the unspoken rules of the classroom. Web filters help with both, as they can block access to any sites that violate actual laws or school and classroom guidelines. 
  1. Communication – Some schools choose to block social media entirely, while others take an approach of limitation rather than elimination. Web filters can be configured to allow access to social media only for certain students (e.g. only high schoolers), giving those students a chance to practice communication skills within safe boundaries. Software with web limiting features, such as classroom management software, may give teachers additional leeway to block or allow certain sites temporarily for specific lessons. 
  1. Health and wellness – Students’ health and wellness can be affected by their use of technology, which is why this category is an important part of digital citizenship. Web filters can help students focus on healthy, school-approved content and avoid content that may put their mental health at risk. Keyword monitoring can also play a key role here by informing educators when a student is digitally discussing self-harm or violence. 
  1. Security – Students need to learn the basics of digital security in order to protect their data, devices, and networks from cyber attacks. Using a web filter with threat detection is a best practice for any school with a digital device program, as it helps keep students from accidentally downloading malware or accessing a compromised website. 
Choosing the right web filter  

Lenovo NetFilter delivers the web content filtering functionality schools need, including AI-powered filtering and threat detection, customized filtering by specific groups or users, and compliance with common regulations and guidelines — all delivered as a cloud-based software to support mixed devices and distance learning. The upgraded version, Lenovo NetFilter+, provides keyword monitoring to further protect students by informing educators of concerning conversations that imply cyberbullying, self-harm, or violence. Read Five reasons Lenovo NetFilter is great for schools

Web filters have the power to help students learn digital citizenship in a safe way — but only when they offer the right features. Learn more about Lenovo NetFilter. 


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