TDSB shuts down Snapchat, Netflix and Instagram in schools

TDSB shuts down Snapchat, Netflix and Instagram in schools

The Toronto District School Board says that the three sites alone use up 20 per cent of their daily internet traffic

The Toronto District School Board has blocked all Wi-Fi and network access to Snapchat, Netflix and Instagram in schools until the end of the academic year because their students — none of whom are presumed to be Kim Kardashian — have basically broken the internet.

The school board said the measures will be effective starting from Tuesday until June 30, and are necessary because the three sites alone use up to 20 per cent of the TDSB’s network activity each day.

“As mobile device usage increases, so do the demands on this network, which was not designed to support this level of activity,” the board said in a media release Monday.

According to the TDSB, almost half of the schools in the system use an “older, slower network,” which cannot keep up with the growing traffic. The traffic overload has caused “slowness and lagging on the network.”

Tasks like “daily attendance, registering students, generating and printing report cards and submitting information to the Ministry have become almost impossible to complete,” the school board said.

“This is an important time of year, teachers are implementing exams and trying to do report cards, and it got to the point where the administrative staff couldn’t get their work done,” said TDSB spokesperson Shari Schwartz-Maltz.

“We looked at the traffic and found that a lot of it was being used in an area that’s not really an educational tool,” Schwartz-Maltz said. “This was the best bang-for-buck option to maximize efficiency on the network.”

Beyond the technical reasons for the ban, Scarborough Southwest school board trustee Parthi Kandavel said it could also have mental health benefits.

“We all know that whether you’re a teenager or even an adult, social media poses a significant distraction from our responsibilities and duties,” Kandavel said.

“I think … what some people call detox, staying away from social media for longer periods of time, actually improves mental health.”

The school board stressed that the measures are only temporary and are meant to help keep school operations running smoothly and allow students and staff to experience effective teaching and learning until the network is improved.

The TDSB said that a permanent solution will hopefully be in place by the time the kids come back in September, because Bell plans to install a newer and faster network in all schools during the summer and continue the work throughout the 2017-2018 school year.

Until then, students and staff will be forced to give up the apps during school hours, or switch off their Wi-Fi connection.

But students aren’t too concerned about the ban.

“When I heard about it, I heard about it on Snapchat, actually,” said Waleed Berhan, a 16-year-old student at Martin Grove Collegiate Institute.

He said he’s “mostly against” the ban because it limits communication between students, he said.

16-year-old Ridhisa Giri, who attends SATEC @ W.A. Porter Collegiate Institute, said she uses Instagram and Snapchat occasionally at school, and sometimes watches Netflix at lunch.

But she doesn’t think the ban will do much to stop students from using the apps. They already know all the tricks to get around it, such as downloading an app, which lets them bypass the censor, she said.

If another purpose of the ban is to prevent people from being distracted during class it probably won’t work either, she added.

“The thing is, for people who are already distracted, it won’t stop them from being further distracted so, I don’t think it’s going to work in the long run either,” she said.

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