We’ve all heard about it.
In fact it’s often all over the news.
And these are only some of the many areas that can lead vulnerable young adults to harm and put them at risk of victimisation.
Online safety is key. It’s one of the most powerful foundations you can provide for your students throughout their time in education.
A number of educational policies relating to safeguarding and online safety already exist, namely:
- Prevent Duty Guidance
- The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 – Part Five
- Keeping Children Safe in Education Guidance – July 2015
- Working Together to Safeguard Children Guide – March 2015
- Inspecting Safeguarding in Early Years, Education and Skills Settings – Ofsted Guidance
They stipulate your legal obligation as a provider of education to have the right processes in place to safeguard your students and stop them from being drawn into things that could lead them to danger or cause them harm.
Okay, so you’ve got a few policies that you put in place. Great.
It can’t just stop there though.
This isn’t just a case of ‘a policy is introduced, you put it in place, and the problem goes away’. These kinds of issues don’t work like that. They need regular management and monitoring.
So what else should you be doing? Above all else, you have a moral obligation to make sure your students are safe from harm – be that through radicalisation, extremism, bullying, self-harm, and suicide to name but a few.
Appropriate IT policies, staff training and student welfare programmes, to recognise and respond to changes in student behaviour or identifying those who may be most at risk, must be introduced.
Simply blocking content isn’t the answer. Why? Because there are associated risks in not knowing, not thinking and not caring.
So what is the answer? Safeguarding and a managed approach to online safety. Even Ofsted themselves advocate this. Establishing high levels of internet filtering and putting additional e-safety policies in place is also best practice.
The ultimate goal is to empower students to become safe, responsible digital citizens with the ability to assess risk for themselves, wherever they’re using ICT.
Safeguarding can even empower you. Allowing you to intervene when the time is right and support your students every step of the way.
You can’t do that if everything’s on lock down can you!
You might now be thinking “that’s all good and well, but how?”
You may have heard of classroom monitoring software, Impero Education Pro. It’s an online safety and network management solution that incorporates keyword detection policies related to a number of online safeguarding issues including homophobic bullying, self-harm, eating disorders and many more.
These policies work by detecting the use of keywords or phrases that may raise alarm bells. If a phrase is detected – be it through e-mail, social media, and search engine, present on a website or in a URL – it takes a screenshot or video capture of the device and provides you with ‘who, what, where’ style information. This information can then be used to open up dialogue with the student concerned and safeguard as appropriate.
The most recent keyword policy, currently being piloted by Impero relates to anti-terrorism, extremism and radicalisation. Working with the Quilliam Foundation, Impero has created this new keyword library in response to the Government’s Prevent strategy, and it’s now being tested in a number of schools. The library contains hundreds of words and phrases that may give cause for concern, and potentially indicate that a student is proactively seeking, or being exposed to, extremist content online.
It’s all about identifying and supporting students before it’s too late.
The policies are all completely customisable so you can set different detection/sensitivity levels to what you feel is most appropriate or add your own terms – such as local gang names, for instance. It can be set to what you feel is right for your institution and students.
So, if a student who’s studying R.E wants to learn more about the Islamic faith they won’t be suspected of doing anything out of the ordinary. The same applies for those students taking Drama and need to find out more about stage makeup (also associated with self-harm to cover scars).
But. If students are frequently flagged up online, in relation to a number of keywords from a certain policy, a teacher can open up a dialogue with the student to check that everything is OK.
Whilst you may think that you’re current filtering systems are working, or you’re relying on your IT manager and techies to already have a safeguarding policy in place, how sure can you really be? Do you want to wait until it’s too late or do you want to prevent the worst happening before it starts?
The protection and safeguarding of your students against any form of harm or danger should be a top priority.
Don’t let others get to them before you do.
Watch our handy 5-minute video guide to online safety: Radicalisation and E-safety