Maintaining a safe learning environment is necessary to students’ mental and physical well-being. It’s also necessary according to recently updated school safety laws. And with the ever-increasing presence of the internet in schools, it’s essential to extend student safety to the online classroom. Luckily, computer safety systems like LearnSafe help districts and schools keep teachers and students safe online. However, there’s a difference in monitoring content versus filtering through users’ activity. Here’s what you need to know about monitoring versus filtering software.
When the government began funding school internet technology in 2000, lawmakers passed the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). CIPA requires eligible schools to adopt internet safety policies before they can receive discounted internet services. First, schools must block or filter access to harmful, obscene, and/or pornographic content. Additionally, the law requires schools to monitor what minors do online while on campus. In other words, CIPA also requires schools to monitor online activity to maintain a safe digital learning environment. Therefore, CIPA requires digital filtering and digital monitoring.
Digital content filtering involves selecting and blocking access to websites on school devices and networks. Also, it can involve blocking keywords or phrases. Data filtering software automatically blocks sites and search results from a student’s view. However, increasingly tech-savvy students easily find ways to bypass filtering software. When it comes to ensuring student and staff safety, content filtering can be lacking.
Digital monitoring works with a school’s CIPA-required Internet safety policy. Monitoring software goes beyond merely filtering inappropriate content. Instead, monitoring software analyzes school computers for at-risk language, images, and behaviors. Monitoring software therefore helps schools identify and support vulnerable, at-risk students. It also allows schools to intervene in dangerous situations and preserve a safe environment.
In this way, digital monitoring works hand-in-hand with other school safety initiatives by informing the work of school counselors and school resource officers (SROs). And LearnSafe’s monitoring software system now comes with an important addition: text and e-mail alerts for SROs. These alerts give SROs and other school staff notice of situations that require urgent attention. Alabama’s Mobile County Public School System currently uses LearnSafe and the alert system. In an interview on the system’s news site, the system’s Director of Security states that “… the program makes kids in schools safer by allowing us to be proactive in stopping an incident before it happens.”
Text by Sarah Vice