Banning & Blocking – Social Media Study Group

Note: This is one in a series of blog posts to be used by Auburn’s Social Media Design Team to conduct a study group before making recommendations for social media policy. If unfamiliar with this series, you might find reading this post helpful.

Banning/Filtering Study Questions

  • What is the impact of blocking Facebook?
  • What methods of blocking are available to us and what are the untended consequences of each?
  • How easy is it to circumvent any filtering?
  • What is considered best practice around filtering?


Although intended as a tool for Auburn’s Social Media Design Team, everyone is invited to use these posts as a resource. And if you are not a member of Auburn’s Social Media Design Team, you are welcome to post comments, too. But please limit/be thoughtful of the sharing of opinion and stay focused on the focus questions – we a trying to use these posts for fact-finding, identifying resources, identifying best practice, etc. Thanks!




17 thoughts on “Banning & Blocking – Social Media Study Group

  1. Jim Hand

    I had to leave campus to confirm a student issue, where there was information on Facebook. Because of filtering, I couldn’t monitor it directly.

  2. Erik Gray

    My professor recently introduced me to an excellent, high quality quantitative study about cyber bullying in middle and secondary schools. I would be very happy to share this article with the group and I will e-mail the file to Mike. The recommendations at the end of the article are very relevant to our situation. Here’s the title and publication:

    Cyberbullying in Schools: A Research of Gender Differences, School Psychology International, 2006.

    I think it’s important to gather our own data with surveys and questionnaires, but I think we should find and use high quality, peer reviewed research to help guide our efforts. I would be happy to look for more!

  3. Mike Muir Post author

    Blocking Facebook isn’t as easy as it seems. One approach we tried was almost useless, and most students knew a simple work-around. A simple approach to blocking the work-around also “broke” Google docs. So we used a third approach which finally blocked Facebook successfully.

    But now administrators can’t even get to it, so they have to leave school to find another network when they hear that there is an incident that they have to check out.

    And the Assistant Superintendent, who maintains the district Facebook page, has to do that work from home.

    And all this time, students can still simply use their smart phones to still access Facebook…

    1. Erik Gray


      I have observed in my classroom that fewer students have smart phones than laptops, so in my classroom, students are not distracted by Facebook while they work.

      This does not mean that I believe schools should constantly block social networking- we should teach it. I am just responding to what I have observed since we have blocked the site.

      1. Mike Muir Post author

        I think you’re right. I’ve heard a couple different groups of students say they didn’t realize how much FB they were doing and were kind of enjoying “the break” and felt they were being more productive….

  4. carlb

    A surprising unintended result of the decision to block FaceBook is that some students are saying that they are more productive and are finding it easier not having to deal with the distraction caused by FaceBook. I am not a proponent of wholesale blocking as a means to limit access to social media sites, but would like to find a balance where those with the need could have access and those with the responsibility could also have a degree of access. Maybe I’m looking for a more Marxist solution: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

    1. Mike Muir Post author

      Are there technological solutions that will let us do that Carl? The little bit that David, Peter, and I explored it, it looke kind of like our solutions to block it are limited to all or nothing…?

  5. carlb

    Short of selectively blacklisting or whitelisting sites or being hands-on with individual devices, a technological solution probably is unlikely. I think the solution with the greatest likelihood of success is to increase our efforts to educate all members of the ASD about their responsibilities with regards to being a good digital citizen as well as to help teachers be more effective in their oversight in classrooms.

  6. Pat gautier

    I think the problem of cyberbullying is only one side of the picture. To a lot of teachers and counselors in my building Facebook, cell phones, and other electronic equipment have become huge distractions to learning. Students are addicted to them and do not have the maturity to know when to use them and when to turn them off. The problem is more systemic than just Facebook or other social networking sites. Students do not always readily comply with what teachers/administrators expect them to do. If they were more willing to follow expectations we wouldn’t have to cut off Facebook during school hours. I guess what I am saying is, we need to think about how to get students to assume more responsibility for their own learning and to make their academic life a priority. And yes, we have had students here at ELHS state that they are thankful we have turned it off. They can focus better on their work and are not always following the latest “drama” that is going on in the building.
    That said, we also have a responsibility to teach students the correct use of social networking as they will need it to interact socially, politically, etc. in their lives after high school. This discussion is more complex and I find myself needing to talk more about it.

  7. Tricia C.

    I think it’s also important to think about the message that we are sending to the students by not blocking Facebook, especially now that the block has been up. I know my team and I decided that we were not going to allow our students to go on Facebook during school at the beginning of the year, and when they asked why not when other teachers let them we told them because their first job while they are here at school is to learn. If you are finished with all of your work, you can always read a book, an article, etc. If we want to give our students a break there are still plenty of educational games on the computer as well as online to give them a break from heavy course-work. We have 6.5 hours a day to create educated citizens and lifelong learners, the other 17.5 hours they have to be on Facebook, Tumblr, Skype, Twitter, 4Square, etc. By making Facebook available again, the message that we are sending to students may be that learning is secondary to their social networking.
    Also, as far as the phone goes, I agree with Erik. I may only have 5-10 students with Smart Phones and all of them have laptops. It’s much easier for me to notice whether they are staring into their laps or heading to the bathroom with their phone than it is for me to notice whether they’re on the right website when all of their screens are supposed to be up.

  8. Peter Robinson (@PeterKERobinson)

    One problem we have with the method we used to block Facebook, (without going into any technical detail at all) is that it is not scalable. By that I mean that if we were to decide that we needed a much more draconian approach to blocking social media in general, this approach would really not work well for us.

    In any case, even if we allow that the percentage of students with smartphones is currently small, that is absolutely bound to change. It’s not that long ago that smartphones were only in the hands of very few adults: now they’re everywhere. That is bound to trickle down to kids, even if only as parents upgrade and cascade their old devices to their kids. (Speaking as one parent who has done this.)

    Ultimately we cannot “block” this problem away, unless we want to go to a “whitelist” where only specifically allowed websites can be accessed. In my opinion that would be a terrible approach. It would effectively eliminate any hope of teaching effective Internet research, which surely must be an important skill for the 21st century. It would also be a full time job for someone to keep up with teacher requests to add sites to the list.

  9. Stephanie M.

    There is a strong need for educating verses limiting/blocking. All students receive social media education in the elementary level at 6th grade, perhaps some of these same lessons should be revisited and readdressed at a higher level in later years as well? 6th graders (and younger students) have the invisibility factor going on that these scenarios won’t happen to them, but as students get older and face these situations for real in their own lives, they are in need of a more developmental approach on how to deal with the given situations (i.e bullying, harassment, etc.).

  10. Erik Gray

    Let’s block social networking sites for students who have not been properly educated on how to use it. If students have been educated in “Digital Citizenship” and can adhere to an established code of conduct, students should earn the privilege of using social networking. Is there a way to “earn” the privilege of using social networking through education? Kids earn a permit to drive- they need driver’s education and a permit to drive. Our district is moving to Standards Based Education. Let’s create a “Digital Citizenship” standard- if the Common Core doesn’t have this, let’s be pioneers and create it! Kids will meet “Digital Citizenship” benchmarks as they progress through school, they will earn the privilege of using social network sites, so by the time they reach high school, they have been trained.

    How do we bring parents on board? How do we make parents accountable for their child’s action on social networking. Parents can sign a contract, and those parents who are unable to monitor their child’s usage- those students can become candidates for limited access through white listing.

  11. Michal Cwik

    The topic of banning/blocking is a very touchy one. We want to stop the terrible antics students are up to, but we also don’t want to block the use of a wonderful tool. The other repercussion of blocking Facebook or other social media outlets is that it won’t solve the underlying problem, and will probably make it worse. When something is off limits to a student, they will take any action in their power to get around the barriers. No matter what we block or how we block it, it will not solve the problem.
    So how would we fix this seemingly irreversible problem you ask? Education. Vague, yes, but it is the answer. We need to teach students the consequences of what they do on the internet. How what they say can affect anyone, in a multitude of different ways. Students have a general knowledge of what they should and shouldn’t do on the internet. But we need to instill instincts into students so they know what they’re sending out into the internet, and if it is safe. Once students can be safe and courteous of what they’re doing on the internet, then blocking/banning will no longer be necessary at all.

  12. Stephanie M.

    Banning/Blocking gets users in the mindset of the “forbidden” fruit. If they can’t have access to it they end up wanting it even more. Rather than banning/blocking how do we make it more of a privilege, and less of a “right” to access… especially on district hardware.

  13. Peter Robinson (@PeterKERobinson)

    One unforeseen consequence is the inability to use Facebook credentials to sign on to other sites. Many sites, this one among them, as well as Flickr, allow users to sign in with credentials from other popular social media sites. Because of Facebook’s prevalence, it is frequently used for this purpose, and even though such use does not directly access Facebook, other than by way of a pop up window to collect and verify credentials, the block prevents this functionality.

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