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Student How-To Guides

HOW-TO… Set up an ongoing discussion about the pros and cons of Internet filters with students and adults in my community.

You know what you're doing. You've been surfing the web since you were five. You know how to surf safely, find what you want, validate your resources, and cite your sources. Right?

The issue of Internet filters on school computers has you all steamed up. Some of you are so frustrated with the filters that you choose not to use the computers at school at all. Others feel that the filters aren't doing a good enough job filtering out inappropriate websites. (See quotes at the bottom of this page to get a sense of what students are saying.)

Many school policies require that Internet filters be installed in every computer at the school. This isn't an issue that is going to go away quickly, but it is an important issue that includes conversations about student rights, school liability, freedom of information, and child safety. Having an open and ongoing conversation about this topic can help your school reach the best solution for your community. This How-to Guide will help provide you with some tools to discuss this issue with other students and adults in your community.


Problem and Proposal
What is your problem? What is your proposal?

Problem: Internet filters are so frustrating! They keep students out of quality sites, don't always block inappropriate material, and disrupt our research.
Proposal: Set up an ongoing discussion about the pros and cons of Internet filters with students and adults in my community.

Print out this worksheet to collect your ideas and your research for your action proposal.



What reasons support your goal? Some examples might include:

  • Filters seem to be ineffective because they DON'T block all inappropriate material and they DO block helpful research sites.
  • Filters censor some really important health information
  • Students are choosing not to use computers at school because the Internet filters get in the way of our research
  • 99% of students don't want to access pornography and inappropriate material at school anyway.
  • Students should learn real-world responsibility when searching the web
  • Nonetheless, many students still want to feel safe while surfing the web.

What is your school's technology plan? Can you show how your idea supports your school or district’s plan for technology?

Read about school technology plans.


For this proposal, your two biggest questions are going to be (1) "What legislation or rules are guiding the current filter situation at our school?" and (2) "What is the range of student and faculty opinion about the current Internet filter set-up at our school?"

See if you can find ideas from reading articles about Internet filters in other schools.

Find news articles and other research to learn how other schools have approached this same problem.

Browse the SVRC Success Stories for advice from the student community.

Collect data: If possible, organize a campaign to find out your classmates' and faculty opinions about the current filter situation at your school. You might organize a poll asking questions such as:

  • Are you happy with the current Internet filter at our school?
  • Do you think the filters should be stronger or weaker?

You might also collect examples of good and bad experiences students have had with the filters at your school.

Find resources and articles about planning research projects.


What other issues do you need to consider?

Read about issues to consider when suggesting change.


Details of your proposal

What is your proposal? Now that you’ve identified your goals and completed your research, write a summary of your proposal. There are many ways to open dialog about this issue.
You might suggest a lunchtime debate with volunteers representing different sides of the issue. Or else you might organize an evening event with representatives from the school board, faculty, and student body to represent the different responsibilities and experiences.

Having an open discussion about this issue can hopefully raise a mutual understanding of the issue and potentially uncover some better solutions.


Think about groups and individuals who would be willing to support your idea. Some examples may include individual teachers, student clubs, your school’s PTA, the student government, service clubs, and local business groups. Try to think of a group that would have an interest in volunteering some time to help you organize or support a discussion or a debate.

Share your research and your proposal and see if these groups are willing to support you as a volunteer, a mentor, or even just adding their word of support to your proposal.

7. Make a presentation

A successful presentation summarizes your proposal, your rationale, and your research. This is what you are going to use to convince the decision-makers to support you.

Review the worksheet of what should be in your action proposal.
8. Set up a meeting
Write a letter, make a phone call, or send an email to set up a meeting with decision-makers to present your idea. Your letter should include an introduction of your proposal and a polite request for a time when you can share your idea. Explain that you have done research and have a proposal to share with them regarding opening up a dialogue about your school's filter policy.

Who makes decisions about school filters?

Read a who’s who of school decision makers.
8. Present Your Action Proposal: This is your chance to use your best manners. Remember, you want to be convincing and likeable. If you’ve followed the steps in this guide, you are prepared with good research and support for your ideas. Your job now is to present your proposal and gain support from decision-makers.

Have you had success with being involved in planning for new equipment at your school? Please submit your Success Story or email any feedback about this module to You are a star!

What YOU Said:

(Student Quotes from NetDay's 2004 Speak Up Day survey)

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