“trash. blocks everything”: Why does my school block things?

You probably know what this article is about. Schools blocking stuff on devices using software like Securly and GoGuardian. However, this isn’t some fuming rant about how my school’s filter blocked my favorite game or Spotify and how it’s a disgrace to the planet and should be thrown into Wonderer Land.

I’m talking about why your school blocks things.

You probably know how blocking works. Visit a website that just happens to be blocked by the school filter, like Coolmath Games, and you get slammed in the face with a block message. The story goes that in the early days when the page they tried to load was blocked, people would just assume the page had some inappropriate content, and move on with their life. Some people say that it only blocked the majorly inappropriate pages. However, one day, several educational and web game sites got blocked. And here we are at the present date.

Cue the angry 1-star reviews.

Of course, most of the reviews on filter extensions are written by 8-year-olds who can’t play Getaway Shootout while they’re supposed to be taking a state test, but some make a point about educational websites being blocked, such as NPR and Wikipedia. This is a major problem for those trying to do research projects.

“because securly blocked gmail, quora, and all that useful stuff, my grades have gone from 30% F’s to 0% F’s. all because i cannot message my friend to get help on an assignment(i dont have a phone), and i cant use quora to tell me how to do something that i NEED for the assignment, otherwise i fail.”

someone on a certain chat website

With all that said, people are going to get even madder, and then start looking for ways to get around the filter. And are there a lot!

A few years ago, the only way to circumvent a blocker extension was to open the task manager and close the filter extension. Nowadays, we have full-on websites and hacks dedicated to circumventing school filters.

One of the many websites dedicated to bypassing school filters
The problem with using web filters is that people CAN and WILL bypass it if they can. Which leads to the question: Why are things blocked at all? Why the heck does Securly and GoGuardian and Hapara and whatnot exist?

Simple. The Children’s Internet Protection Act, or CIPA, for short.

Schools and libraries subject to CIPA are required to adopt and implement an Internet safety policy addressing:
-Access by minors to inappropriate matter on the Internet
-Measures restricting minors’ access to materials harmful to them.


Essentially, if a school doesn’t block inappropriate things, then they are breaking the law. But what about game sites? Only a small percentage of web games contain content that needs to be blocked.

Chances are, games are distracting. Trust me, I have burned many hours on Henry Stickmin that should have been spent on homework. Teachers and admins just want students to focus on their education.

But what about all those “horror stories” of people failing a class because the websites they were trying to use for their research were blocked? It’s really hard to crack that puzzle. However, the most likely cause is faulty page scanning.

Every time you visit a web page on a school device, the filter scans the website once it has finished loading for inappropriate content using an AI engine. However, these have a track record of making mistakes. Essentially, when a page scanner AI makes a mistake and misreads a safe, appropriate piece of content as inappropriate, the block hammer go swing! And all traffic to that website on the school filter is blocked.

AI-based page scanning works well, but it has lots of issues that need to be fixed.

And that’s why your school blocks things. (basically)