Back-to-school: Is your web filtering compliant?

We’re sure you will agree, we can’t believe it’s this time of year again! September not only signifies the end of summer holidays but the start of an exciting new school year ahead.

With lots of changes to legislative demands for educators having happened over the summer holidays, hopefully, you have had plenty of time to think about the practices you will be putting into place, to ensure you have the most appropriate filtering and monitoring solutions required to successfully safeguard and promote the welfare of children in your care.

The new legislation from the Department for Education sheds light on the fact that as part of a digital age, we want young people to understand, learn from and utilise the internet as part of their education, as it is such a large part of our culture.

Due to this, ‘over-blocking of web content’, is no longer something that is sustainable or effective within education. Schools now need to focus on tools that enable them to block inappropriate content in real time, without relying on URL blocklists alone, whilst still allowing access to educational and appropriate social content.

With ever increasing demands and expectations to perform against Ofsted’s framework, it is key to understand the reasons why new legislation has been brought into place.

As young people are growing up in a digital culture it is key to recognise the important role that the internet plays in our society and learning. Unfortunately, we also need to be aware of the risks that the internet brings.

If used in the correct way, the internet can provide entertainment, interaction and connectivity for millions of people across the globe.

However, some terrorist groups have also recognised the power of online platforms have and statistics show that they are increasingly reaching out to young people who are using the internet and using it as a tool for radicalisation.

As young people are increasingly influenced by the content that they see online, especially on social media platforms, it has become a big concern.

A national survey of 11-24-year-olds conducted by the National Counter Terrorism Policing HQ has highlighted this and shows that the majority of young people obtain information in general from Google searches and social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The development of the internet has completely changed the way that terrorist organisations can influence and radicalise young people as it enables groups to reach a global audience at the click of a mouse with more dynamic messaging.

This, in turn, means that vulnerable young people can be exposed to extremist materials that are readily available on the internet and radicalised by extremist views.

On average, each week the Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU) removes over 1,000 pieces of content that breach terrorist legislation and approximately 800 of these are Syria and Iraq related and have been posted on multiple online sites and social media platforms.

This is one of the reasons that legislation and guidance such as the Prevent Duty and Keeping Children Safe in Education are at the forefront of current legislation within the education sector.

It is now not merely acceptable to take action once an event has occurred but to prevent them from happening in the first place. In order to do this, schools must consider what is appropriate for filtering and monitoring for online use both inside and outside of school.

How can Smoothwall help?

Smoothwall’s goal is to make the internet a safer place for children and we are specialist developers of safeguarding solutions and content-aware web filtering tools.

We protect more than 7,000 UK schools and 2.5 million students every day from accessing harmful content on the internet.

Smoothwall’s safeguarding and reporting suite, available as part of the Glamis product release, is designed to facilitate the effective provisioning of safeguarding in school environments and address legal mandates set out by the UK Government including the Prevent Duty and Keeping Children Safe Online.

Safeguarding reporting enables anyone who holds the legal responsibility in schools and colleges to generate meaningful analysis on search terms entered and URLs accessed over various timeframes, to establish user activity that has breached any one of the 7 out-of-the-box rulesets: radicalisation, suicide, abuse, substance abuse, bullying, criminal activity and adult content.

Category rulesets are linked to Smoothwall’s existing web filter categories, and each category has a severity assigned to it.

Smoothwall enables you to still allow access to sites and apps such as YouTube while removing potential harmful content outlets such as the comments section.

This allows students to utilise these services for educational uses, while not being subject to inappropriate content.

Reporting in this way helps schools to meet increased safeguarding obligations while also generating evidence that can be used by School leaders in their next Ofsted inspection to demonstrate compliance.

To read more about appropriate filtering and monitoring and how the Smoothwall solution meets the guidelines set out by the UK Safer Internet Centre, click here to view our white paper, or speak to one of our market specialists.

Have you ticked web filtering off your list? Leave your comments below.