e-Safety and user monitoring solutions for education and the enterprise

e-Safety guidelines for schools and teachers

Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

The Internet has enabled young people to explore, connect, create and learn in ways never imagined before.  It has, in fact, given us all immense power. It has often been said that “with great power comes great responsibility.” So how can we ensure our children are using this power responsibly? The answer is e-Safety education.

e-Safety is constantly evolving. One company that has been instrumental in safeguarding young people online in the UK is Securus, the leading e-Safety solution for schools and colleges. Securus monitors all computer-based activities, both within and outside of places of learning, and alerts school authorities to anything that suggests a child may be at risk or is breaching acceptable use policies.  Since 2002, more than 3,500 educational establishments have enjoyed the benefits Securus provides, by identifying and preventing thousands of online threats to children every day.

One major concern raised recently by the government is cyberbullying.  A staggering 69% of all school age children report having been bullied, with a large proportion taking the form of cyberbullying.  It is not just the children who suffer, however.  A  guide released by the Department for Education reveals that 21% of teachers have reported derogatory comments posted about them by children on social media sites. Read our blog to delve a bit deeper into cyberbullying.

e-Safety guidelines for teachers

In November 2013, the Guardian published an article, which reported that schools play a very important role in confronting online abuse. A majority of teachers feel that schools should improve their levels of online safety education.

How can schools help keep students safe online?

Quiz –  You could use a quiz to emphasise the importance of using strong passwords for online security. For example: what was your first pet’s name? What is your date of birth? What is your email address? Or, what is your favourite film? After you obtain the answers, tell them that you now have the information to retrieve their passwords. Encourage them to make the connection between these questions and regularly asked security questions online, and teach them techniques to make the information more secure.

School policy –  many schools have embraced e-Safety, but how many of them consider e-Safety education to be mandatory in their schools? Ensure that school networks operate like home networks – they should be open and trusted, but with regular monitoring and honest discussion when breaches are made.  Additionally, teach your pupils how to use online tools effectively for personal use, education and socialising. Also, help them develop critical thinking skills around all aspects of being online.

Involve older students –  peer education is one of the most positive ways to build awareness on e-Safety. Elect a group of older pupils, and provide them with in depth training to enable them to become e-Safety ambassadors who can train students, staff and parents. Here is what  e-Safety advisor specialist, Alan Mackenzie has to say about this approach: “The students were particularly responsive to this approach as the advice was practical, realistic and relevant. There were no mentions of dated social networking sites or advice of the ‘don’t meet online friends’ nature, which often typify the traditional e-Safety one-off assemblies.”

Engage parents –  e-Safety discussions should be part of the school curriculum and not just something spoken about at an annual event. Families should be encouraged to participate, e-Safety is, after all, a shared responsibility.  There should be regular and open communication with families, where parents can be educated on e-Safety, covering such topics as using filters, parental controls and home computer security. To learn more about how to protect children using parental controls, read our blog.

Be positive –   When talking to youngsters about the Internet, show them its positive aspects as well as its dangers. Do not start any discussion on e-Safety in a manner that could scare them and always emphasise using the Internet carefully and responsibly.

The e-Safety tools available today should help us to feel positive about technology. How positive are you?

Monitoring for Extremist Content Online

Extremist content
Greg Johnson Greg Johnson

Parents, teachers and educational leaders are becoming increasingly proactive when it comes to e-Safety and its measures. Wise use of the Internet is bridging the gap between parents’ concerns and children’s demand for liberal use.

The Internet is the most preferred hub for freedom of speech and self-publication. The UK government has therefore launched a number of polices for e-Safety to counter concerns that include cyberbullying, sexual abuse, and extremism. Extremism is particularly challenging to investigate because there is no accountability per se and the ideology is imparted in an indirect manner, through non-verbal communication and images that can evoke undesirable psychological responses. Nonetheless, we can look for valid solutions through appropriate awareness.

Here are some pointers for applying appropriate monitoring strategies:

Individual reporting

Users who encounter racially inflammatory material can report it directly to the Police. Responsible officials will further review and assess the material in a systematic manner. The government’s Home Office counter-terrorism Internet referral unit received 2,025 complaints regarding extremist content. Consequently, about 10% of the offending web pages were taken down by the authorities.

Safeguarding through open discussions

Teenagers often come across extremist content while searching for other information online. This content is then repeatedly disseminated to them through pop-ups or reminders. To help youngsters deal with this type of content effectively, we can talk to them about the possible consequences at an early stage to make them more aware. Also, it is helpful to maintain an open dialogue with children about what they like to do online, so they feel safe to disclose any unpleasant experiences.

Surveillance versus blocking

It is advisable that we review and supervise the content accessed by children, rather than simply blocking websites because over blocking may cause them to lose out on important information. We need to have a variety of checks in place – is the content age appropriate? Are personal devices (used in schools, libraries) set in line with the regulations? Are the safety filters functioning optimally to give prompt alerts? And, are the monitoring system retaining the accessed data appropriately to revive or review for later use?

Here, former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan explains that the government has launched the Educate Against Hate website. This practically advises e and supports parents, teachers and school leaders on protection strategies against extremism.

One way to ensure online safety is to implement appropriate systems to monitor and filter online content accessed by children. A survey on management of Internet access in UK public libraries revealed that all public library authorities used filtering software to ensure safer usage.

We are here to help you facilitate safe and secure online usage for your children; contact us to find out more about how we can assist you.

Together we can stamp out hate crime

Hate crime
Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

“We are Great Britain because we are united by values such as democracy, free speech, mutual respect and opportunity for all. We are the sum of all our parts – a proud, diverse society. Hatred does not get a seat at the table, and we will do everything we can to stamp it out.”

–  Amber Rudd, Home Secretary

The Home Secretary is absolutely right – but what can we do about it?  On 30th October 2009, Ian Baynham died as a result of a hate crime attack. More than 10,000 people attended a candle-lit vigil in Trafalgar Square after the incident.  The vigil created such an emotional response, that Mark Healey decided to launch the idea of holding a National Hate Crime Awareness Week (NCHAW).  NCHAW, which takes place each October, is not only designed to heighten awareness of this invidious offence, but also offers the opportunity for anyone who knows or suspects hate crime incidents can report them to the police.

Sadly, hate crime is not just limited to adults, but affects our children too. To help teachers effectively deal with hate crime in schools,  the government has published a pack in collaboration with the Crown Prosecution Service, the National Union of Teachers and the Anthony Walker Foundation. This pack is designed to provide a resource that helps schools to promote understanding of what racist and religious hate crimes are.

Here are a few activities that you could be used in the classroom:

Section one

This contains an introductory warm up activity to teach pupils about racially and religiously motivated incidents. The activity is an icebreaking session in the form of a who’s who quiz, it is a photo quiz that looks at stereotyping.  Additionally, a DVD with a series of filmed scenarios is provided for discussion and classroom activities, which is divided into two sections. The first part of the PowerPoint presentation has seven embedded film adaptations that are based on real experiences. It is advisable for teachers to show it to the entire class and only then start the discussion.

During the discussion, you could ask the pupils what happened in the clip and why it is significant. For instance, one of the videos shows a girl covering her head with a hijab (part of a Muslim girl’s religious identity) and boys call her a ‘Paki’. Ask the class how they think the girl felt at the end of the clip. End the session by ensuring that the students have knowledge of Internet safety and reporting procedures.

Section two

The partnership incorporates another DVD for Section two. This plays interviews of young people talking about their experiences – what actually happened to them, and how and why they were discriminated against and bullied. After watching the video, ask your pupils to make notes and discuss their opinions and views on how they could make a difference. Finally, tell the pupils you will be showing them some video clips of people who have advice for them.

Section three

Although these activities are optional and additional, it is worth implementing at least a few of these, as they will deepen the pupils’ understanding of the impact of racist behaviour and help them prevent such incidents. Start by distributing a list of racist and religious hate incidents in school and read through it with the class. Ensure that your pupils understand the issues, give them time to read it and ask if they have any questions. Most importantly, explain the concept of hate crime to students and its legal consequences.

However, you won’t necessarily witness hate crimes only on school premises. Internet hate crime is also on the rise.  The Internet has brought us many positive things, so it is important that we present a balanced view of the Internet to our children. If you would like to learn more about an e-Safety solution that provides students with a secure on-line learning environment and help to combat hate crimes in schools, contact us today.

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