POWHATAN COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Powhatan County Public Schools are pushing for tighter restrictions on students’ internet devices.
School leaders held a panel last week to talk about their efforts to promote internet safety and to give families tips on how to keep students safe at home.
One of the district’s efforts is testing out a new core web filtering program called Blocksi. The program limits students’ access to certain sites on Chromebooks while in the classroom, and it also comes with new features like classroom management and a parent portal, which allows parents to directly monitor their child’s internet activity. Some of those blocked sites include Netflix and Facebook.
Jeffrey Durrett, the Director of Administrative Technology for Powhatan Schools, said some teachers have already seen a difference in students’ behavior. He’s hopeful Blocksi’s new features could help cut down on the few cyberbullying incidents, and social media threats they’ve seen.
“What teachers can do is they can take over the screens and focus students on the particular lesson, so that has really cut down on the distractions,” he said. “It was a no brainer for us. We’re really not talking about internet filtering as much as we’re talking about student safety.”
Blocksi costs about $18,000, which according to Durrett, is about the same price as their current filtering program called Lightspeed.
Powhatan Schools is expected to implement Blocksi across the division by the start of the 2023-2024 school year. Durrett said they’re already in a pilot stage at Powhatan Middle School, and they plan to test it out at Powhatan High School on Wednesday, Feb. 1.
At the Student Internet Safety panel last week, school leaders urged families to teach their kids about a good media balance and warned them about the potential dangers of being online.
“No longer do we have to be worried about the stranger down the street at the playground. Somebody can harm your child 3,000 miles away using the internet,” one panel member said.
“Parents have been asking us ‘OK we see what you’re doing at school. We know you have filtering. We know the kids are supervised. What can I do at home?'” Durrett said. “It’s all of us together and we wanted the community to know we had their back and that we just want to help.”