Let's face it. We can all agree that the internet is revolutionary and it has changed the way learning takes place in K12 but at the same time the internet can also be an unsafe medium. The challenge of keeping students safe while accessing the internet is ever changing and there are a variety of technologies and services to choose from to achieve CIPA compliance, each with strengths and weaknesses.
Along with internet access, many school districts also provide students access to email. This is another area that needs monitoring as the use of student email in cyberbullying cases is common. Then there is the omnipresent social media. A concern for both parents and school districts alike in today's digital age.
In the last 15 years, the proliferation of the social web has moved bullying from the locker rooms to the screens of students’ devices. Additionally, students have become prone to declare their intent to self-harm online over other traditional media. To top it off, “school violence” no longer means a school-yard fight. Nearly a dozen school shootings scar the national conscience on a yearly basis.
How do schools deal with online safety in the digital age? Well, the traditional approach to protecting student online activity involves using an appliance or "hardware" based internet filter. That means a physical device is put in place on the network. The device then filters the websites that are visited, blocking access to inappropriate content. Our school district was at a point for renewal of our traditional appliance based web filter and saw an opportunity for innovation in this area and took a look at Securly.
The Securly filter differs from appliance based web filtering because it is cloud based, so no hardware is required as all website requests go to Securly on the internet and then filtered. The product is specifically designed for K-12 institutions and integrates with Google's G Suite for Education. Securly blocks inappropriate websites using machine learning AI (artificial intelligence) and dynamic page scanning technology in their cloud based web filtering system. Here's a look at how Securly's PageScan technology works.
We piloted the Securly web filter with great success over the course of one semester in a multi-platform middle school (iPads, Chromebooks, Mac, and PC). Students in our 1:1 schools that take their devices home are also filtered when outside the school network. Another nice feature of Securly is the automated reporting feature that sends email notifications to administrative staff on student activity that is inappropriate. The notifications on inappropriate student use are received in near real time so that action can be taken to address the situation. Administrators also have ability to download student activity reports for disciplinary action. The previous filtering system had the capability for this but required a complicated change to the configuration and did not offer the automated routing at the time.
In addition to the web filter, we also piloted another online safety service from Securly called Auditor during the same period. The Auditor service scans our student Gmail accounts for self harm, grief, and bullying. Notifications for this service are also routed to administrators in the same manner as the filter. Over the course of the piloting and transition to Auditor, the district took action in two instances to help students that needed intervention.
We were happy with the results of the Securly pilot and went forward with the transition from appliance based internet filtering to cloud based internet filtering for our schools. Securly also has other services such as Securly Home (parent portal), 24 Hour live monitoring, and Securly Hub for home wi-fi. Overall, Securly has comprehensive tools and services to meet the challenge of keeping students safe on the internet both at school and at home.