At the beginning of September the Department of Education (DfE) issued updated statutory guidance for Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE). The latest updates placed an even greater onus on teachers to manage safeguarding and to act on issues when they arise.
Safeguarding in the classroom is a tough but necessary challenge that teachers face everyday. As children and young people evolve to become digital natives this task becomes even greater. Much of the day-to day communication between pupils has moved online making the various risks faced by them harder to identify. The online environment frequently offers a place for problematic behaviour to take place under the cover of a digital utopia where we are all connected as ‘friends’.
The DfE recognized this growing need to protect children while using ICT back in 2016 when they introduced monitoring as part of the statutory guidelines. Two years down the line there is still some confusion about what monitoring means and how it differs from filtering, a requirement that was already in place. To be clear, the act of monitoring refers quite simply to keeping watch on the children in your care whether in the physical world or the online one.
Online we have the benefit of being able to do this systematically by putting software systems in place that monitor for us. Unlike the playground, software systems can keep eyes on all the children in our care at the same time. This is not a big-brother technique, the software systems that monitor do so based on specific parameters. We don’t want or need to see each and every interaction between children. We do want to see a cry for help or recognize a situation that is getting out of control before it’s too late. In many cases the systems used are those that use word and phrase captures with the evidential screen shot based on a library of words built from a range of sources to flag up problematic or worrying behaviour.
So how does this differ from filtering? The very necessary act of filtering blocks young people from visiting inappropriate online destinations. Filtering plays an important role in simply not allowing young people to go where they shouldn’t and saving them from unnecessary exposure to harmful or distressing material as well as protecting networks from other forms of web threats. It’s important to note here that filtering and monitoring focus on different but equally important safeguarding tasks and should go hand-in-hand.
However, we are all increasingly aware young people and children are now digital natives and often know more than we do. We are learning from them. For that reason alone, the richness of monitoring can give us a wealth of information. Not just about what’s happening right now under our very noses and therefore when to intervene but spotting patterns of behaviour, distinguishing between accidental and deliberate access to inappropriate content where ‘context’ is key and learning about what’s coming down the line.
This perfect partnership is the best way of addressing the online behaviour, the interactions and the new trends that we haven’t imagined yet.
Bernard Snows is CEO at online safeguarding provider, Securus