By Dr. Ramiro Zuniga
I wanted to discuss a law that most, if not all, technology staff in schools and libraries are familiar with: CIPA. CIPA, or the Children’s Internet Protection Act, came into existence in 2000. The purpose behind this law is to protect our children from inappropriate material while accessing the Internet.
Schools and libraries receiving E-Rate monies for equipment and services that provide Internet access are required to have in place technologies that block harmful material. The harmful materials include images that are obscene, pornographic, or otherwise harmful to children. Additional requirements include monitoring the Internet activities and educating students on proper Internet etiquette. Topics to be covered during the educational process include networking, socializing, cyber-bullying awareness, and responding to cyber-bullying.
Schools subject to CIPA have two additional certification requirements: 1) their Internet safety policies must include monitoring the online activities of minors; and, 2) as required by the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, they must educate minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms, and cyber-bullying awareness and response.
According to the Federal Communications Commission website, schools and libraries subject to CIPA are required to adopt and implement an Internet safety policy addressing:
(a) access by minors to inappropriate matter on the Internet;
(b) the safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms, and other forms of direct electronic communications;
(c) unauthorized access, including “hacking,” and other unlawful activities by minors online;
(d) unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal information regarding minors; and
(e) measures restricting minors’ access to materials harmful to them.
A few things to keep in mind as it relates to CIPA and E-Rate Funding:
- School districts and libraries are not required to file for E-Rate Funding and, as such, would not be affected by CIPA. However, I would, for public relations and overall liability, suggest that anyone providing Internet access put in place some form of technology intended to protect students.
- CIPA does not apply to schools or libraries that receive E-Rate monies for things such as basic telephone services, including local- and long-distance services and cellular telephone services.
- CIPA allows disabling of the protective technologies by an authorized adult conducting legitimate research.
- Although CIPA does require monitoring of Internet activities, it does not mandate the tracking of these activities.
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind and carry out is to inform teachers, administration, staff, and parents that, although constant monitoring of Internet activities is ongoing, there are no technologies that exist that are 100 percent reliable in preventing access to inappropriate materials. To do so, schools and libraries must create an atmosphere in which everyone takes on the responsibility of monitoring.
If you are interested in learning more about E-Rate Funding, please refer to my posting on E-Rate from last year: E-Rate Funding: Are you ready for it?