Home » Education Technology » Could real-time online safeguarding alerts help keep more children safe from harm?

David Tindall

CEO, Schools Broadband

Effective online safeguarding solutions — featuring real-time alerts — can help schools integrate the management of pupils’ digital behaviour with offline pastoral care.

On the one hand, the internet is a portal to a fascinating and endless source of knowledge. As such, it’s an indispensable learning tool. On the other hand, it’s also the Wild West. 

Online safety for students matters 

Unmanaged, unfiltered and unpoliced internet access can pose a serious risk to children and young people. Making sure that pupils are unable to view harmful/explicit content on school networks is a challenge for many education providers.  

“There is an increased use of digital devices among school children and young people,” explains David Tindall, CEO of Schools Broadband, a company that delivers fully managed internet services specifically designed for educational settings.  

Under The Department for Education’s statutory safeguarding and child protection guidance (Keeping children safe in education, updated in 2022), schools and colleges must appoint an appropriate staff member as their Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL). This might be easier for larger schools and Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) that can deploy individuals solely dedicated to a safeguarding role.  

It can be harder for smaller schools and primary schools where resources are stretched. Plus, staff may not have the understanding or the skillsets to effectively manage pupils’ internet activity,” says Tindall. “Online safeguarding involves a lot of work.” 

The importance of real-time safeguarding alerts 

Under government guidance, it’s mandatory for schools and colleges to have appropriate IT filtering and monitoring systems. “We must stress that ‘filtering’ and ‘safeguarding’ are two very different things,” says Tindall. “A filtering system filters out harmful content to make it inaccessible; a safeguarding solution alerts staff to harmful content that children are attempting to look at.” 

For example, an effective safeguarding system will raise the alarm if a pupil searches for information about suicide, self-harm or terrorist-related activity. “This behaviour can often be a cry for help,” says Tindall.  

“It must be highlighted immediately because time may be of the essence. The problem is that many safeguarding solutions will flag up the problem in a report days later — by then, the pupil in question may have attempted to view the information again.” 

With this in mind, Schools Broadband has developed an online tool — the Digital Safeguarding Incident Management Platform — to help schools integrate the management of their pupils’ digital behaviour with offline pastoral care.  

Under government guidance, it’s mandatory for schools and colleges to have appropriate IT filtering and monitoring systems.

Promoting online safety in any location 

The platform works alongside the company’s existing content filtering solution and reporting engine and filters by URL — rather than simply blocking words — which is more effective. Plus, it provides online protection for pupils who are using school-enabled devices at home.  

Crucially, however, it also can send real-time alerts should a web search be made that flags a concern. Additional reporting tools enable staff to identify concerns and trends, share information and intervene immediately whenever a child/young person needs help.   

Educating young people about keeping safe online 

“Safeguarding leads should manage and respond to data in real time,” says Tindall. “By recognising patterns and trends in search histories, they can prevent pupils from doing something that may cause harm to themselves or others.”  

Naturally, innocent mistakes can be made; so the system can put a user’s internet activity into context and identify mistyped searches, preventing unnecessary safeguarding interventions. If an incident occurs, a digital auditing trail is available to highlight the action taken by the senior leadership team. 

Tindall admits that more has to be done to keep children safe online. “Young people have to be taught the facts about internet safety by schools and parents,” he says. “Safeguarding platforms like ours are not a silver bullet. However, if they stop just one child from coming to harm, then it’s technology that’s absolutely worthwhile.” 

Schools Broadband is on Bett stand SB51.
For more information contact: [email protected] | 01133 222 333 (Option 3) 

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