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Case Study – Monitoring Computer Use in a High School for Pornography, Bullying and Racism

Case Study - Monitoring Computer Use in a High School for Pornography, Bullying and Racism

During the school year 2003 to 2004, a case study was conducted in a high school to determine (a) what problem existed on the use of school computers and (b) solutions to the problem.

The study had three objectives:

  • Provide a safer and more effective environment for internet users in the school environment;
  • Fulfil the school’s request to provide software that provided monitoring and auditing capability, enabling more flexible internet access;
  • Fulfil the school’s concern regarding chat room activity on school computers;
  • Remove undesired communications from the schools computers such as pornography, racism and bullying.

Test Setup

The school suspected that extensive computer misuse was taking place by a large number of their students, approximately 1600 students sharing 480 computers, but could neither prove, nor quantify, their suspicions. Detection and analytical software was installed to determine the range and extent of this misuse. The analytical element of software was configured and installed in order to:

a) Log the computer activity of each student on a per user basis.

b) Monitor and record existing traffic across the system architecture that did not comply with the school’s Acceptable Use Policy.

Analysis Results

Within minutes of the first day of implementing the test, a violation icon was flashing. The test was conducted in stealth mode to prevent the users of the computers knowing that their activity was monitored. By the end of that day, more than 2000 violations had been detected. The volume of violations kept growing; to the staggering number of over 20,000 in two weeks. Consider that these violations occurred on only 480 computers within a school of 1600 students. The violations averaged GREATER than one violation per student per day. The school administrators were not prepared for this level of misuse of the school computers.

Additionally, the range and seriousness of the violations was unexpected.

· Offensive language was being used in chat rooms, e-mail, message boards, instant messaging and mobile phone text messaging.

· Students were attempting, and all too often succeeding, to access pornographic websites. This was particularly worrying, as the school accessed the Internet via filtering and blocking systems installed by the School District.

Points to Consider with Monitoring Software

· It allows full and safe access for all to the school’s computer network;

· It enables enforcement of the school’s Acceptable Use Policy;

· It keeps decision making in the hands of the school’s teaching professionals;

· It lets teachers teach rather than police computer misuse;

· It prevents inappropriate Internet, e-mail or internally communicated material reaching students and staff;

· It provides protection to students and staff from the potential consequential liabilities derived from accessing the Internet;

· It has reduces the instances of inappropriate misuse of computers;

· It helps teachers prepare students for the working world by encouraging proper and more effective use of computers; and

· It helps raise academic standards by encouraging proper use of school computers for academic studies.

Summary

As staff and pupils grow more confident in their use of new technologies across the curriculum, the potential dangers and benefits grow in similar proportion. All computer users in school must be protected from the ever-widening range of threats. Students must be encouraged to make the most effective use of school computers for learning. Effective monitoring softwareprovides a unique, flexible and simple to use management tool that combines comprehensive protection and with a better learning environment. What was uniquely disturbing in this case study was learning that the school district had installed district level filtering software that proved to be totally ineffective. The administrators had tried to resolve the problem but were employing the wrong technologies.

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