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

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.

The role of education in preventing online radicalisation

Greg Johnson Greg Johnson

Education plays an important role in developing a student’s personality. Children spend much of their waking hours in school and teachers have a responsibility in helping their students reach their full potential. Ensuring the social and emotional development of children is a critical aspect of a teacher’s role. Therefore, they have a profound effect on the lives of their students.

Some believe that educating children contributes to solving many of the contemporary world’s problems. Be it poverty or gender discrimination, a good education can combat all this and more.

With advances in technology, teachers and students alike are making use of the Internet to supplement lectures, get access to online courses and extra materials and resources. The Web is now akin to a worldwide virtual school. According to an article published in The Guardian, children are referring to the Internet more than ever before, not just for educational purposes but for recreational purposes too.

With students as young as four using the Internet, it is in their best interests to safeguard them against its more unscrupulous elements. Online radicalisation is one such potential hazard. This can happen when an individual accesses extremist views and starts to believe and support them. This may also result in a change in behaviour and beliefs. Our earlier article highlighted why radicalisation is a serious issue which needs immediate attention.

What can schools and educators do, according to the law?

The UK Government published the Prevent Duty Guidance in 2015, which listed the duties of schools in tackling online radicalisation. It states:

“[Schools] are subject to the duty to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. Being drawn into terrorism includes not just violent extremism but also non-violent extremism, which can create an atmosphere conducive to terrorism and can popularise views which terrorists exploit.”

This does not mean students are barred from discussing sensitive topics like terrorist ideologies and extremist ideas. But it does mean that schools are advised to be mindful of presenting a balanced approach to these issues.

Risk assessment

The guidance expects schools and educators to assess the risk of children being drawn into terrorism. There should be a general understanding of the risks that can affect children as well as identifying children who may be at risk of being radicalised. Teachers must be aware of what to do to support such children.

Staff training

If Head Teachers and others in leadership positions ensure that staff understand radicalisation, they will have the capabilities to deal with it. They will be better equipped to challenge extremist ideas and be more aware of where and how to handle students who need further help.

IT policies

Establishing appropriate levels of filtering can go a long way in ensuring the safety of students from terrorist and extremist material.

Working in partnership

Schools need to co-operate with local Prevent staff, police, civil society organisations and other appropriate agencies. Engaging with parents is also considered important as they may be in a key position to spot the signs of radicalisation.

Educators can also encourage an environment in which students can debate controversial issues. Teaching students to critically appraise online sources of information will help them build resilience to online radicalisation. For in-depth guidance, you can always refer to our article on building online resilience.

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