Parents and teachers have warned you a million times: social media is a distraction from learning and has no place in schools. The reality is, though, that sometimes you just want to unwind on Instagram during your lunch break – and there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to refresh your feed only to discover that your school blocks it.
You need not worry, however! Depending on your choice of proxy, browser, or VPN, you’ll be able to access Instagram in its unblocked glory at school, work or anywhere else with Wi-Fi constraints.
Instagram is blocked at school for these reasons
It’s pretty obvious why Instagram isn’t allowed in classrooms when you put yourself in the teacher’s shoes. In a room full of restless students, getting their attention is not an easy task. If each child had a smartphone, the task would become meaningless (let’s face it, social media is a lot more engaging than yet another math class).
While Instagram can be fun and inspiring, it also has the potentials to be used for bullying, harassment, and gossip. Many schools have banned social media altogether as a preventative measure since they have been sued for allowing students to cyberbully others on school Wi-Fi.
While bullying has vanished completely, there is still a lot of sketchy stuff on social media that’s deemed inappropriate for school, and the most effective way to prevent students from seeing it is to implement a network-wide ban on Instagram and other websites.
A debate rages about whether these policies are fair – sure, social media has its downsides, but it can also be educational. Instagram could be utilized by art classes to find inspiration and share finished pieces, while Facebook group chats can help plan and organize team projects.
The majority of schools continue to block social media despite listening to these arguments. The key to getting around their restrictions is to understand how they do it; don’t worry, it’s a lot easier than you think.
Blocking Instagram in Schools
Network administrators at your school have access to the router that broadcasts the WiFi network you use while on campus. The school manager keeps a list of all of the websites that students are not allowed to access on the school’s router.
Seeing all traffic that passes through the router, it can check it against the blacklist before allowing it to pass. When it detects an IP address, URL or keyword that is banned, it stops the request immediately.
In your school, you may receive an error message notifying you that the website is blocked, or you may just see a blank screen.
Website blocking isn’t just a school thing — your parents may use a similar setup on your home Wi-Fi network. Additionally, most employers don’t want their employees wasting their time on social media and other time-wasting websites. This is why Wi-Fi networks in offices and other places of work frequently block access to such sites.
Is Instagram blocked in school? How do you unblock it?
By bringing your own smartphone, laptop, or tablet to school, you can circumvent internet blocks. You can choose the right one based on your budget and how advanced your school’s network administration skills are.
All blocked sites and apps, including YouTube, Snapchat, and Twitter, can be accessed via these strategies, not just Instagram.
In addition, once you’ve picked a method, you can use it to circumvent site blocks wherever you are. It doesn’t matter where you are – at school, at work, at the library, in the coffee shop, at a friend’s house, or at your own house, the entire internet is once again at your fingertips.
You can bypass Instagram’s blocking by using mobile data
Turn off your Wi-Fi and browse over mobile data instead to use Instagram or other blocked websites or apps. As long as you’re on your school’s network, they can only stop you if they physically take your phone away (so be discreet!). Once you’re off the network, they can’t stop you unless they physically take your phone.
However, there are some disadvantages to this method that make it less than ideal for many people.
If you do not have an unlimited data plan, too much browsing can consume your entire monthly data allowance. It’s no secret that Instagram uses a lot of data, as the photos and videos it loads use a lot of bandwidth.
The data usage problem can be solved with unlimited data plans, but they can be costly. Additionally, many of these companies dramatically slow you down once you exceed a certain amount of data over the course of a month; some of these sites even time out before they load.
If you want any Internet access at all, then you’ll have to use Wi-Fi depending on your school’s layout and construction. Mobile data, on the other hand, will not work if you bring your laptop to school, so you’ll have to take another route.
Unblock Instagram with a proxy server
Are you familiar with how website blocks work? You will need to find a way to avoid getting caught in the filter by accessing instagram.com without actually visiting the site in order to avoid being caught by the router when you try to access a banned URL (such as instagram.com).
It’s not as difficult as it sounds. A proxy server simply acts as a middleman between you and Instagram and sends the data it receives back to you. Another computer on an uncensored network serves as your proxy server.
Proxy servers were once notoriously unreliable and sometimes tricky to set up, requiring you to manually change the settings on your computer and learn by trial and error how to make them work. Despite this, today’s proxy servers could not be easier to work with: simply visit their website, tell them the URL you want to go to, and then hit Enter.
You can only access the proxy server through your school’s WiFi router, so it won’t activate any filters or alarms unless it’s blocked as well (which is a lot less likely than Facebook being blocked). All Instagram-related data appears as if it was coming from the proxy server, not Instagram itself, since it is the one actually visiting the service.
Wouldn’t the school be able to tell that the proxy is visiting Instagram and blocking the results from loading? Because proxy servers use secure connections, nope – all your school sees is the URL of the proxy server, not whatever you type into it.
Proxies are slow, so if you want to upload or watch long videos, you’ll have to show some patience. Because they are used by so many people at once, there are a few cons to using proxies to unblock Instagram. You may need to try a few different free proxies before you find one that works because some of the most popular ones are often used to hide spammers’ identities.
In addition to proxy servers, many blacklists now contain social media sites and proxy servers. Schools are starting to catch on to proxy. To find a proxy server that isn’t blocked, try a bunch of free ones. If your school has really cracked down on proxy servers, try an alternative method.
Unblock Instagram with the Tor browser
As a web browser, Tor is built on the Mozilla Firefox platform and is designed for privacy. Like any other browser, Tor works by typing the address you want to visit into the address bar.
The Tor network acts like a proxy on steroids – instead of redirecting your requests only once, Tor runs them through a variety of servers across the globe. It won’t know what site you’re accessing nor what proxy URL you used; instead, it’ll see an IP address that is allocated to whomever received your request in the Tor network at the time.
Because Tor is harder to blacklist than free proxy servers, it’s a reliable way to get around school blocks. In addition to the one URL, a network administrator would have to add all 7,300 publicly-listed Tor servers and all 850 unlisted Tor servers. That’s a big task for your school – especially since Tor traffic is less noticeable than proxy traffic.
Why does Tor have a catch? You’ll have to wait a while for things to load, especially high-quality photos and videos, because each request passes through at least three relay servers in each direction.
However, Tor is still possible to block, despite being a lot harder to do than your average website. It’s possible that Tor use will end up on the blacklist, at least partially, if it catches on in your school (or if your network administrator has a bad day). It’s a great tool, but it’s not 100% foolproof.
Instagram can be unblocked with a VPN
The most effective and reliable way to unblock Instagram and other websites is with a virtual private network, or VPN. There are many other benefits associated with using a VPN, from unblocking geo-restricted content to protecting your personal information from prying eyes.
Similar to a proxy, when you type in the URL of a website, it is redirected through a VPN server before reaching its destination, and then the process is reversed to display the site. If your school only sees you communicating with the VPN server, not with any of the websites you’re actually visiting, you won’t have to worry about blocking or filters.
VPNs, however, are much more versatile and secure than proxies. Depending on which VPN provider you use, you might have hundreds or thousands of servers to choose from around the world.
When you choose a server that’s close to you, your speeds will be faster, and if you choose one in a different country, you can access streaming content available only there. You can watch Netflix shows that are only available in Canada if you are in the USA; pick a VPN server in Canada and Netflix will think you are actually in Canada, allowing you to watch the show.
VPNs are without a doubt the best way to bypass school site blocks, however, due to their security features. With VPNs, all your data is encrypted before being sent and received over the internet, so your school won’t be able to see what you’re doing.
When you type “Instagram.com” into the address bar, your VPN program encrypts the request and turns it into gibberish. This gibberish is sent to the VPN server (the only place that can decrypt and carry out the request). Regardless of what site you visit, or what kind of data you send or receive, the network administrator at your school only sees the IP address of the VPN server and the encrypted gibberish request.
As opposed to proxies or Tor, which only protect you when you specifically use them, a VPN can be set up to encrypt and reroute your entire internet traffic, no matter what app or program you’re using. VPNs protect the entire device rather than just one browser or website, making them ideal for users who need to access multiple blocked websites
Even so, VPNs are usually faster than proxy servers or Tor, although there is still a bit of speed loss. In addition to being harder to block, VPN server IP addresses are far less conspicuous than proxy URLs – VPN providers use thousands upon thousands of IP addresses.
In light of the above, some schools have blocked ports on routers used by popular VPNs in an attempt to block VPN usage. By changing your VPN settings or changing your provider, you can easily circumvent these bans.
With VPNs, the biggest obstacle is the cost. There are free VPNs out there, but they tend to be slow, unreliable, and they don’t protect you as they claim. With a paid VPN, you get a ton of features, as well as greater peace of mind for a few dollars per month.
On a school computer, how to unblock Instagram?
On our own devices, we have explored several options for unblocking Instagram and other sites, but what about on school computers? Installing new software can be difficult when you don’t have administrator access, but it’s not impossible.
Before we begin, I would like to issue a word of caution: school computers might be equipped with monitoring software, such as keystroke loggers. It could still be very easy to get caught even if you are able to access blocked websites even though your internet activity is masked.
It is better to avoid school computers whenever possible; using your own device is more private and secure. So here are four methods for accessing blocked websites on school computers.
Browser extensions that enable VPN access
The majority of VPNs require you to install some kind of software on your device before you can use them. Your encryption keys are managed by this software, you can change servers, and a firewall protects your device from the internet, ensuring nothing slips through the cracks.
If you’re trying to use a VPN on a school computer that can’t be installed with new software, you might think that you’re out of luck. Fortunately, many VPN providers offer browser extensions that circumvent this restriction.
As browser extensions reside within the web browser, they are not considered full programs, so their installation isn’t blocked. In spite of the lack of protection from a VPN browser extension for all internet activity conducted outside of a browser, it should be sufficient for short-term usage on school computers.
VPN providers don’t always offer browser extensions, but those that do usually offer Chrome and Firefox versions. Installing it is a matter of only a few clicks, and removing it when you’re done for the day ensures the computer remains as it was and avoids arousing suspicion.
You can still use a VPN browser extension even if your school computer does not have Firefox or Chrome installed.
VPN Browser Extensions Recommendations:
NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and PureVPN offer extensions for Chrome and Firefox among the six VPN providers we discussed above. The Private Internet Access extension can be used with Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.
Utilize a proxy server
You shouldn’t have any trouble using proxy servers on school computers since they don’t require any software to use (provided they aren’t blocked at the network level, of course).
However, when using a proxy server on a school computer, there are a few extra precautions to take. At the end of your session, you will want to remove the proxy from your web history so that no evidence is left behind; you never know who will use the computer next.
It is entirely possible for the school’s network administrator to determine whether your account accessed the proxy even if you delete its history from your web history after you’ve finished using it. Teachers and staff will observe you more closely in the future if you do this, but it won’t necessarily get you in trouble.
Some schools also maintain separate filters on their individual computers in addition to blocking websites across their network. Either way, these can block you from accessing proxy sites, whether implemented within the web browser or across the entire operating system.
Make a USB toolkit
Although your school’s computers can’t be installed with new browsers, you are not restricted to the one approved by the school. The simple USB thumb drive can be loaded with portable web browsers, so it can be used on any computer as a toolkit for web privacy!
Firefox and Chrome, the two most commonly used browsers by VPN extensions, both offer free portable browser downloads. Installing these portable browsers is not necessary; just put the files on your USB drive and run them whenever needed.
Chrome’s portable browser technically supports extensions, but some are buggy due to how Chrome handles settings. Firefox’s portable browser lets you install extensions, including VPN extensions, without issue. If you want to be sure Firefox is reliable, you can try Chrome instead, but you don’t have to uninstall any of them – just delete the file if you don’t want it.
It offers a free way to hide your social media usage from your school’s network administrators since Tor is a portable browser by default. If you encounter a website block, just launch the program file from your thumb drive.
Using portable web browsers doesn’t require a huge USB drive since they are relatively small files. With a 1GB drive you can get by, but a larger one will give you space to store other files like homework, papers, and projects – just in case you need a reason why you have a USB drive connected.
Create a mobile hotspot with your phone
You can access Instagram and other banned sites right on your school computer if you have a cell phone that supports mobile hotspots and tethering. With your phone, you can create a mobile hotspot and connect to it with your school’s computer instead of using the school’s censored Wi-Fi.
Open the Settings app on iOS and choose Mobile Data, then Personal Hotspot. Ensure that you’re not connected to the school’s Wi-Fi. To configure a new hotspot, change the “Personal Hotspot” setting to “On” and enter a password.
Go to Settings – Wireless and Networks – More, then disconnect from the school Wi-Fi. Follow the instructions for giving your network a name and password by tapping on “Tethering and Portable Hotspot” and then hitting “Set Up Wi-Fi Hotspot.”
After you have set up your hotspot, go to the Wi-Fi settings on your school computer, find your new network, and connect to it with the password you created. Thankfully, now you can browse whatever sites you want without getting snared in network filters – just make sure to watch your data usage, especially if you’re browsing a lot of images- and video-heavy sites.
Are there any dangers associated with public Wi-Fi?
In school, the library, an airport, or a coffee shop, you can always stay connected for free through public Wi-Fi, but it comes with a whole host of hazards, including nosy network administrators and nefarious connection spoolers. You can, however, thwart these attackers and even avoid them entirely with a little knowledge.
Which Ad and Tracker Blockers Work Best?
Whatever type of advertisement you encounter, it usually comes bundled with invasive trackers. Pop-ups, banner ads, overly loud commercials – no matter what type you encounter, they’re rarely welcome. You can protect your privacy and the web from annoying ads and trackers using browser extensions like uBlock Origin and AdBlock Ultimate.