Are we responsible for content filtering at home?

I've been corresponding with some folks looking at 1:1 solutions for their schools and came across an issue to which I hadn't given much thought. When kids are at school, they are generally behind a content filter of some sort and can't access inappropriate websites (at least without some significant effort on their part).

I've been corresponding with some folks looking at 1:1 solutions for their schools and came across an issue to which I hadn't given much thought. When kids are at school, they are generally behind a content filter of some sort and can't access inappropriate websites (at least without some significant effort on their part). However, if we send kids home with a computer, few parents have any sort of content filtering in place on their home networks (or the neighbor's network with unsecured WiFi).

This begs the question: are we responsible for ensuring that kids can't access inappropriate sites at any time they are using a school computer? Is it also in our best interest to keep kids out of the nether reaches of the Web since those tend to be sources of malware that we inevitably need to remove?

In my opinion, the latter is a far greater concern than the former. Parents take over responsibility for monitoring their children when they leave the school. At least, that's the theory. Not only is this often not the case, but kids are sneaky and perception is important. If parents perceive that a 1:1 program is enabling their kids to look up porn, then you have a pretty big problem on your hands.

That being said, anti-malware and anti-virus software are only two parts of the solution to computer security. One reason that we tend to see very few malware infestations in schools is because content filters prevent people from making it to malware-infected sites, whether or not you have gateway anti-malware in place. Failing to filter content at home is just asking for trouble on the desktop and increases the likelihood of introducing malware to a school network.

Unfortunately, most client-side content filters tend to simply block sites from blacklisted URLs. Some are more sophisticated while others can be quite pricey (or both). Dans Guardian is an outstanding free and open source content filter for *nix-based systems, but is complicated to set up and doesn't work on Windows.

So what's the solution? Provide the software? Rely on free software with limited capabilities? Switch everyone to Linux and deal with Dans Guardian? Don't sweat it and let the parents take responsibility? Talk back below and let us know your thoughts.

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