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How to Stop Internet Porn in School Computer Labs

By Wayan Vota on April 26, 2010

First off, pornography happens online, and it’s been a problem in every country for decades now. Just read what the U.S. Department of Justice said way back in 1996:

“Never before in the history of telecommunications media in the United States has so much indecent (and obscene) material been so easily accessible by so many minors in so many American homes with so few restrictions.”

And that was before widespread broadband penetration or advances in video streaming and social networking. According to Alexa, now the most popular pornographic sites individually attract anywhere from 0.07% to 0.14% of all web pageviews.

Porn sites are also popular in Africa. The following table from Online Africa shows the rank of the most popular adult sites in African countries where data is available:

So how do you stop the viewing of pornography in school labs so concerned parents, teachers, and school administrators don’t rise up in revolt?

Software is not a solution

Most people think you need to install a content filter with a strict whitelist to block pornographic content. And there are a number of companies that sell both installed client software and bandwidth monitoring software to reduce the opportunity to find online porn.

Yet, content filtering software isn’t foolproof. Because new porn sites launch every day, their filters need to be updated constantly. Users can also bring in their own digital porn content and view or share it without ever crossing the filter.

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Peer pressure is the solution

The simplest and best filter is human – to quote Supreme Court Justice Stewart, “I know it when I see it” – and this is how you can effectively, and cheaply keep Internet cafe users from watching porn online.

You make their peers automatic porn blockers by making sure that others can easily see every computer screen in the room with these simple steps:

  1. Face each screen towards the center of the room
  2. Remove any obstruction between screens (like CPUs or dividers)
  3. Place the lab admin where they can easily see each screen
  4. Make sure the admin is looking out – not down – when seated at their desk
  5. Use mirrors or windows to create an open, bright workspace

Here is a great example of a safe school computer center from Kempshot Grammar Academy, Ghana:

computer-lab.jpg

Note how you can see every screen, and there is nothing hiding a screen for its neighbour. This is also the view from the doorway to the lab, so anyone walking by the lab, or walking by either window can see each person fully.

In this way, the community becomes a human peer pressure blocker of objectionable content – no matter what kind of content it is. And it’s a self-regulating filter – no software or updates needed.

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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