School administration discourages and restricts the use of a VPN in schools. VPNs are necessary for your digital well-being. But this doesn’t equate to VPNs being flawless. As a web service, it is a virtual and private network that allows users to hide behind remote servers and facilitate encrypted communication. As a result, nearly no one can see what you do online. Sounds too good to be true, right? It is, but then there are other aspects of the benefits of a VPN.
Sometimes monitoring is required to ensure a user’s safety, especially in schools. As students are minors, they need constant supervision, at least while they are in a classroom. Although it is per the school’s guidelines, it is also for the positive growth of a student as the internet is not as innocent as it seems. Thus, before advising VPNs in schools, there are certain things one should know.
Why do schools block websites?
A school does the necessary contemplation before enforcing a ban on a particular website. That is majorly for the students’ benefit. Many websites contribute to a lack of concentration, and lots are outright harmful and unfit for a minor audience. Some are addictive, and others can result in financial loss. As a result, a school, from its purview, reviews and blocks any online content it deems harmful to its students.
1. Protect students
A school has its students as the top priority. Hence, it will adopt or enforce policies that directly or indirectly favor and protect students. The reason behind blocking websites is also the same. We all know that in this digital age, there are times when, due to rigidity, some positive websites or information can also get caught up in this block. But as a rule of thumb, these schools choose to err on the side of caution.
2. Disciplinary reason
Although students are minors, it doesn’t stop them from misusing the internet. From cyberbullying to cheating on exams, there are many ways a student can misuse technology. A school is not only an institute of education, but it also inculcates the overall development of a student where discipline plays a critical role.
3. Adhere to the law and keep students focused
Some bans get enforced following the law. That is outside the school’s jurisdiction. Students tend to waste time on irrelevant content. To make them focused on what is necessary and prevent a drop in their academics, schools often ban distracting services.
4. Due to limited bandwidth usage
Lastly, the school network, like any other, is reliant on hardware infrastructure. Also, like every network, it has a bandwidth limit. Hence, in the absence of such bans, students can freely use the internet to surf and download resource-heavy content. That activity can crash the network, which will, in turn, affect the students.
How do schools block VPNs?
Schools discourage the use of VPNs by enacting VPN blocking techniques. Here are a few approaches schools adopt to prevent access to VPN services.
1. Blocking VPN IP addresses
The most effective and quickest way to block a VPN is to blacklist suspecting IP addresses. Although VPNs hide the user’s IP address behind remote servers, they use their server’s IP address to initiate a connection. Hence, when the school can’t stop users from employing a VPN, it can prevent the VPN servers from connecting. All a school has to do is use an IP gathering service and use the firewall to block suspicious IP addresses.
2. Port blocking
This is a more advanced form of VPN blocking since the Internet uses ports to travel. Hence, a VPN can use unsuspecting ports to facilitate its connection. What a school admin has to do, is block the port and prevent the VPN from accessing the network. VPNs running the OpenVPN protocol tend to use port 443 for TCP and 1194 for UDP. Thus, by blocking these ports on their end, schools can prevent a VPN.
3. DPI (Deep Packet Inspection)
As it is the most advanced VPN blocking technique, DPI is nigh impossible for a school to employ. But DPI can effortlessly block most VPN traffic. The technique filters encrypted web traffic. And it can further distinguish the type of encryption being used. As a result, it can separate and block suspected encrypted traffic and render the VPN useless.
Why do students need a VPN in schools?
We also have to understand the reasons behind the incessant demand for using a VPN in schools. As students, they have concerns that seem to justify the usage of VPNs. Here are a few salient points:
- Security concerns — A student can also have security concerns regarding his online data. They may want to use a VPN due to encryption.
- Privacy on social media and other online websites — VPNs are great for online privacy. Many students indulge in social media, and those who want added privacy can always opt for a VPN. The service can hide the user’s location, making it much safer to use social media platforms.
- Unblocking geo-blocks — Sometimes, a student wants to access regionally controlled content. The only recourse is to use a VPN to unlock such content. A student can use the VPN to access content from all over the world.
- Due to advertisements — Often, the use of VPN is a direct result of non-stop advertisements. A student is often a frequent Internet user, and they regularly consume online content. Such materials can have ads that glorify VPNs, which, in turn, can render the student curious. The result of such curiosity can lead them to use a VPN.
- Peer pressure — Students are impressionable and susceptible to peer pressure/influence. When their friends do something or use a particular service/product, it inadvertently makes them willing to try it.
- Want to hide from the school — One of the critical reasons behind using a VPN in schools is to hide from teachers. Let’s face it; students can be a bit immature. Due to that, they always think to hide first in case they ever do something wrong. What can help such a cause more than a virtual private network?
- Want to access banned content — Also, a school can ban some websites and services, but if a student wants to access them, they have to rely on products like VPNs.
When can using a VPN in schools be inappropriate?
If your school has explicitly banned VPNs, you as a student should respect it. Although a VPN can be beneficial, it is also true that it can bring equal demerits. Using a VPN in schools can be highly inappropriate for you, if:
- You lack focus and are struggling with your responsibilities as a student.
- Can’t concentrate on your school work, surely, a VPN is not going to make it easier.
- As a student, you can’t use the VPN correctly, then it’s better to avoid using one at all.
- Concerning individuality, it proves true that students are not mature enough to tackle societal responsibilities.
- While a VPN can render you anonymous, sometimes a modicum of monitoring can grandly benefit a student’s growth.