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iPrism: Protection or Restriction?
How iPrism is helping and hindering our campus.
iPrism is a content filtering software made by EdgeWave™ and is used by companies such as Pepsi and Universal and here at KUA. Content filtering software monitors the websites that people go to and blocks certain sites for the user’s safety. According to the creators of iPrism, their service assures “powerful protection from Advanced Persistent Threats.” These threats include viruses, suspicious websites, and other preventative parameters that the users of iPrism can set themselves. At KUA there are many mixed feelings about iPrism among students, it helps protect their devices but also restricts their use.
Here at KUA, iPrism has been in place for over ten years and has a variety of uses. The director of technology at KUA, Mr. Bourne, said that at KUA it “blocks what we consider inappropriate content.” This content includes the previously mentioned threats and online gaming, among other things.
Online gaming being blocked is a controversial topic among students because many of them do not consider gaming to be a harmful activity that should be blocked. Sophomore boarding student Andrew Jones said, “I’ve never found online gaming to be harmful in any way, however, I think the school blocks it to keep us focused on schoolwork.”
iPrism is also used by the technology department to encourage healthier sleeping habits in students. They do this is by enforcing the lights-out times for boarding students, which are chosen by the Student Life Office. For each grade, the wifi will shut off at their lights-out time and will not come on until early morning. This restriction does encourage students to go to bed at a more reasonable time but does not take every student’s needs into account.
Sophomore boarding student Amelia Keith said that iPrism “is very helpful in restricting activity after certain hours, but it doesn’t take into account the last minute homework crunch times.” Many students like to finish their work for the next day late at night since they either prefer to work at night or were not able to finish all of their work during the day.
Some international students are only able to call home during the middle of the night but are restricted from doing this by iPrism’s guidelines. Boarding senior Yiwen Xu said, “as an international student who uses the internet as a way to connect myself with the other side of the world, I hate iPrism.” The service blocks nighttime calls home and some international websites that are potentially harmless. As a school with many international students, the student population believes the faculty and administration must take in the needs of all students.
For students who are determined to work around iPrism and its guidelines, there are options. The most popular of these are Virtual Private Networks or VPNs. They are downloadable programs that route your connection through another server and hide your actions from any monitors in place, such as iPrism. AJ Martignetti, a senior boarding student, said that “students should have the ability to choose to do with their free time what they want.” VPNs enable students to do this; however, VPNs are not allowed under the KUA acceptable use policy. They are not mentioned in the student handbook, but in the terms of service, all students agree to eschew VPNs when first signing into the wifi; in the guidelines, it is stated that any “attempts to bypass restrictions” are against school policy and therefore punishable.
For faculty, there are no restrictions. The only purpose that iPrism serves for them is protection from malware and harmful websites. Faculty are able to work and use the internet during all hours of the day and access content that is normally restricted for students.
Even though many students may not like it, iPrism is effectively filtering out threats. Without iPrism, it would be much easier to accidentally download a virus, and it would be harder to maintain healthy sleeping habits. However, these benefits do come with some downsides. International students are restricted from calling home at night, online gaming is blocked, and some safe websites are blocked unintentionally among other things. It is also possible that when students get home or when they leave KUA they have trouble managing the freedoms that they suddenly have. Is it better to force students to be healthy, or would it be more appropriate to let them learn on their own? The debate rages on as students and faculty discuss the benefits of “iPrison”, as it is sometimes called.