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The End of VPN

A+student+logs+on+to++a+VPN.
A student logs on to  a VPN.

A student logs on to a VPN.

Photo Illustration by Alliyah Wilcox

Photo Illustration by Alliyah Wilcox

A student logs on to a VPN.

Lars Andersland, Staff Reporter

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Betternet VPN, Turbo VPN, Hotspot Shield VPN, TunnelBear VPN, and HI VPN. If you are a member of the student body at Washington and are active on social media, it is highly probable you recognize one of these virtual private networks. If you have not heard the acronym before, don’t feel left in the dark. A large number of students utilize this tool, but few know how it actually functions.

A VPN (virtual private network) is a service that allows connection to the internet via a private network. Information traveling between your device and this network is securely encrypted. The majority of these networks are used to browse privately, access geo-blocked websites, and bypass internet censorship. In recent years, lack of privacy has become a tremendous concern when using the internet, resulting in greater VPN usage and demand. Simply put, a VPN functions to no longer present your online activity to local networks or have it associated with your device. Instead, data is routed to a private network that, in most cases, is based hundreds to thousands of miles away from your location. Additionally, virtual private networks don’t instate restrictions on web domains visited. This facet of a VPN becomes especially useful when a school restricts applications more beloved than knowledge itself, such as MySpace, Instagram, and Snapchat.

Social media holds great value to students at Wash. In accordance, a problematic situation arises when students can’t use their media throughout the school day. Many are aggravated by the block because they rely on social media to communicate and stay in the loop socially. Sophomores Kloe Soukup and Lindsay DeWolf disagree with the block on social media considering it an asset to students. “[With the help of social media] I can stay tuned into what’s going on around the school.” said Soukup.

Additionally, Snapchat is overtaking texting as the most popular form of virtual communication among students. “Social media helps me stay in touch with friends and family that live in and outside of Cedar Rapids.” explained DeWolf.

Students have turned to easy-to-use VPNs that completely solve their accessibility problems. Instead of burning up precious cellular data to check social media, media runs smoothly over school wifi. Though implications were set to restrict social networking, Kaden Bowie ‘19 believes usage is more than reasonable during down time. “I use a VPN because I can be on social media, especially during lunch. Social media should be unblocked,” said Bowie.

Other students long for easy access, but refuse to use VPNs due to their shady nature. “My dad’s an IT and I talked to him about using a VPN for school wifi,” said Izzie Wilcox ‘19, “he told me I shouldn’t use them because they are unreliable and you can potentially get viruses on your phone from them.”   

Scott McWherter, Washington’s technology facilitator, says he and the CRCSD are aware of the VPN usage among students. “Not much can be done to prevent VPN usage,” explained McWherter, “Every time a firewall is set up to block an existing VPN, another VPN is created,” said McWherter.

With an extensive amount of VPNs and no real way to inhibit student’s use of them, is it possible that social media could be unblocked in the future? “I won’t say it’s something that isn’t talked about,” stated McWherter, “there is a possibility that social media sites will be unblocked in the future.”

Someday, if social media can be freely used on school wifi, VPNs will become irrelevant in the context of high school. Until that day, if you’re low on data and desperately want to put a dead cockroach on your Snapchat story or scroll down Instagram during Spanish, you’ll have to use one.

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The student news site of Cedar Rapids George Washington High School
The End of VPN