MCPS Blocks Social Media Apps on School Wifi
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MCPS introduced free wifi for its students to use on their mobile devices and computers in the 2014-15 school year. However, starting at the beginning of this school year, popular apps among the student population like Instagram, Snapchat, Vine and Facebook have been blocked from the school wifi.
It is common knowledge that the use of the school’s wifi is monitored. The Children’s Internet Protection Act and Protecting Students in the 21st Century Act requires MCPS to protect students from inappropriate and harmful content that can be found online.
“Social media, when used correctly, isn’t inappropriate or harmful,” sophomore Kirsten Stillwell said. “So I don’t understand why they block it from the wifi. We should be able to go on social media during lunch or during free times.”
The county decides which websites are blocked. If a website is blocked that is needed for instruction at a school, the specific school can ask for the website to be unblocked; however, the county has the final say.
“From what I heard [MCPS] amped up the security software this summer. I assume that’s why social media has been blocked this year,” IT Systems Specialist Jennifer Lomax said.
When opening blocked apps while on school wifi, a message appears that says “no internet connection” even when you can clearly see three wifi bars in the corner of your screen.
Twitter, however, has not been blocked, even though it is very popular among students. A surprising social media site that is blocked is Myspace, which very few students use.
“If a student accesses enough inappropriate sites they will be flagged at central office. A report is then sent to me and Ms. Bensen,” Lomax said.
So if students keep trying to access these popular website every day, it could become a problem for some.
Even with apps and websites blocked, very persistent students still find loopholes. Dozens of virtual private network (VPN) apps are available, making students who downloaded them able to access the blocked websites while still using the school’s wifi. However recently VPN apps have also been blocked from the wifi.
“I used VPN apps when I wanted to go on blocked apps during school,” junior Megan Pianalto said. “I should be allowed to look at my social media in school as long as it’s not during class.”
Despite the attempts to block websites, many students can still be found on social media throughout the day. Many students use their data instead of wifi to check blocked websites and apps.
“The school blockings on social media aren’t stopping students from using them,” Stillwell said. “So they seem irrelevant at this point.”