MFS students on Tuesday were quick to find that they were unable to access most social media platforms and several other non-academic websites while on the MFS WiFi network. While Twitter is now accessible, student favorites Instagram and Snapchat, as well as Slader, a homework help website, had suddenly been blocked, in addition to popular game websites such as Poptropica and Slither.io.
Upper School Director Justin Brandon explained the reason behind the changes for WordsWorth: “It was brought to our attention that some students were violating the Acceptable Use Policy,” he explained.
Citing “general bad usage” and “inappropriate behavior,” Brandon described after a meeting with Director of Technology Steven Kolaris that they are “taking the week to figure out what makes sense for students.”
Kolaris also shed some light on the WiFi policy change: “We used to block social media on purpose, to block it from being a distraction,” he said. However, MFS has “softened up a little as people have been using it for school projects.”
“I’ve tightened everything up, and I’m going to see how that affects things,” Kolaris explained.
Kolaris also expressed interest in hearing student voices and reactions to the change. “It’s hard for me to gauge,” he said.
That student reaction has been strong – especially since no message was sent out to them, alerting them of the change or the reasons behind it.
Junior Carie Feigeles explained her frustration: “I understand where the school is coming from, but it’s pretty annoying, especially because most people don’t use their social media during class; most people use it during study halls and frees.”
Speculating about the reasons behind the change in policy, Junior Megan Mininno said, “I think it’s unfair that the whole school is getting blocked from everyday or informative sites because of something an immature group of students did online.” In addition, she added that blocking sites does not stop any problem. “The only thing that does is make students waste their data which in turn wastes money,” she explained.
When attempting to view social media websites such as Instagram or Snapchat on the Internet, a message promptly blocks access: “The link you are accessing has been blocked by the MFS Web Filter because it contains content belonging to the category of: Social Networking.” In addition, Slader.com reveals the same message but ending with the category “Academic Cheating.” The new block also prevents students from accessing the category of “Game Playing & Game Media,” as the blocker page says; this includes Poptropica, Slither.io., and Webkinz.
Overall, it is unclear whether these new blockages are here to stay, but their immediate impact has already been felt.