VPNs - Uinta County School District

VPNs

Virtual Private Networks

Tech savvy teens are now commonly using VPN technology for a variety of concerning reasons. So, what does VPN mean and how are teens using them illegally?

What is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) creates a secure connection between two devices, allowing the exchange of data or information to happen privately using the internet.

If you can imagine internet data as a train, normally travelling from station A (the User) to station B (the website), a VPN would be an extra station C that the train must visit to get from A to B.

Today, VPN technology is widely used for other purposes - many of which are illegal. It’s also now used by teenagers for various reasons that are concerning parents and schools. Cyber Expert and Clinical Psychologist Jordan Foster from ySafe has identified the three most common reasons teens use VPNs.
 

1

To override their school’s web filtering

 

Schools often require kids to bring their own laptop or iPad to school, which they then need to connect to the school’s WiFi. Because the school’s WiFi will block social media and inappropriate content, teens will use a VPN app or website to access all of the blocked websites and apps.

What this means is that children and teenagers can bypass parents' settings and filters to get to the content that they are after. Think of it this way - a child is trying to get into a nightclub (e.g. the internet), and parents have put a security guard at the door (e.g. blocking access). So, the child takes the backdoor to secretly get into the nightclub undetected (e.g. uses a VPN).

2

To use the internet anonymously

 

A VPN allows users to browse the internet anonymously, which means teens are able to do whatever they want online without any roadblocks. Teens often want to access videos and content that may have been blocked in their country, and a VPN allows them to do this, however it also means they can communicate anonymously, which can involve illegal activities such as purchasing drugs.

3

To steal online content

 

The most common reason teens use this technology is for pirating movies and TV shows. Many users like to access content, such as US Netflix, that is only available within the USA, so they use a VPN based in the USA to make it seem like that is their location, which is totally illegal.

 

The best way to address issues with VPNs is to use a parental control tool. Parental control tools can identify and remove VPN apps and block websites from protected devices.

Blocking VPNs is essential for not only ensuring that teens are not bypassing important safety tools, but to ensure that they don’t feel that their anonymity online safeguards them from being accountable for their online activities (such as cyberbullying).