Our children are spending increasing amounts of time online, particularly in school and, whilst we can protect our kids at home, it has crossed my mind on more than one occasion to wonder what they get up to whilst using the internet away from home.
Whilst we have signed internet 'policies' and permission forms to agree to this use at school, it's good to know that software is being developed to help schools and colleges with their duty to protect their students' online safety.
Located near Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, UK software developer NetSupport Ltd, has developed new technology that not only helps to keep students safe on the web by monitoring and restricting the scope of their internet use, but also provides them with an avenue to report any concerns they may have – in confidence – to a trusted member of staff.
And with children aged between 8 and 15 now spending more than twice as much time online at school and at home as they did a decade ago, there is now more of a need for this kind of protective measure than ever.
The software’s release supports the new Government proposals announced on 22nd December 2015 to strengthen the current Prevent duty legislation – obliging schools to introduce filtering technology and monitor pupils’ internet use more closely to safeguard and promote their welfare and prevent them “from being drawn into terrorism.”
Using advanced neurolinguistics technology, the product’s comprehensive keyword monitoring feature provides schools with an insight into what students are typing (both online and in programs such as Word) and draws on an extensive database of keywords and phrases covering the spectrum of safeguarding topics: from cyber bullying, sexual abuse, eating disorders and pornography to the potential for radicalisation.
This means staff can be alerted to activity by students who are potentially open to physical or emotional harm and allows them to take the appropriate action.
Ensuring students can report any anxieties they might have is key to an effective safeguarding policy. The new “Report a concern” feature of NetSupport DNA’s safeguarding module provides a simple and accessible way for students to initiate contact with trusted members of staff for help or guidance.
NetSupport has worked with internationally-operating organisation, the Internet Watch Foundation, to ensure the keywords supporting the technology are as comprehensive and relevant as possible. In addition, the company has collaborated closely with its local authority, Peterborough City Council, and school safeguarding leads, as well as conducting its own research with groups of students on the language that they use every day.
To learn more about NetSupport DNA,visit www.netsupportdna.com/education where product video tours, walk-throughs and a range of supporting resources are available.
Any advance in the technology needed to keep our children safe online is surely to be applauded and it will be interesting to see what level of adoption software such as this attracts - and what level of reporting is acted upon and shared with parents.