BESSEMER, Ala. (WIAT) — A state lawmaker has proposed a bill that will put limits on what students can search while using school devices.
State Representative Ben Robbins proposed House Bill 489 — which would place a filter on school devices, restricting students from accessing social media and explicit content online.
Robbins says many school systems prohibit students from accessing certain websites while on the school Wi-Fi, but this bill will extend those limitations when students’ devices are away from school.
“The way I envision it is that when the device is handed to the child, it will already have a filter in place that would prevent that child from accessing certain sites and platforms,” Robbins said.
School leaders from Bessemer City High School say this legislation can be helpful. The school has filters prohibiting students from accessing social media sites while at school, but principal Lisa Heard says students find ways to break through those filters.
“They share a link of how they can bypass the filter,” Heard said. “The filters are strong, but we have intelligent students all over the world, and they like to see what they can do.”
Garry Richardson, technology coordinator for Bessemer City Schools, says it’s an ongoing struggle.
“As soon as we block one, students can use virtual private networks; they can use different proxy servers to get to these,” Richardson said.
Robbins says his bill will not only block students from accessing non-education sites but also protect them from explicit media and images that would harm their mental health.
“Having people have images and thoughts of themselves due to social media or pornography causes higher rates of depression, higher rates of anxiety, and we want to address those, and in my mind, every day is the right time to tackle those issues,” Robbins said.
The bill will also provide a social media curriculum for students, which would be required and educate them on how to be safe online.