The relentless pace of technology leaves many adults lagging behind whilst children race ahead, readily embracing the latest developments.
And as children effortlessly circumnavigate age restrictions, the virtual world becomes more and more accessible. This accessibility works both ways, placing our children at the forefront of some dangerous and well-publicised threats. Bullying, sexual grooming and suicide, to name just a few, have found fertile new ground in the arenas of social media, gaming forums and other ever-expanding online platforms. Digital technology is now so entwined in our lives that the virtual world can no longer be seen as separate from the real world. And that is why any solution devised to tackle this problem needs be multi-layered: a technological response enhanced by preventative awareness-raising and child protection expertise.
Securus Software, whose network monitoring system is installed in over 3,000 UK schools, supports this approach. Throughout 2013, Securus has focused on forming partnerships which help its users to create a ‘whole school’ safety ethos both online and offline: “Our partnerships are an essential part of how we help schools to keep their pupils safe,” said Teresa Hughes, a former public protection police officer and manager of Securus. “Online and offline worlds have converged: our software plays a big part in keeping children safe, but it’s only one tool in the box. This year, we’ve partnered with BeatBullying and South West Grid for Learning (SWGfL) with the aim of making their contemporary resources readily available to our schools.”
BeatBullying, the leading anti-bullying charity, works with schools to prevent and eliminate bullying. Through its highly-acclaimed training programmes, the charity delivers online and offline support to young people who have been affected by bullying and helps young people to help each other. As Ofsted now requires schools to provide a safe online experience, this combined strategy is crucial to meeting these objectives. Emma-Jane Cross, CEO and founder of BeatBullying, agrees:
“Collaborating with Securus means that BeatBullying can add its expertise to ensure that each school feels fully supported, informed and armed to defeat cyberbullying.”
SWGfL’s BOOST package delivers a number of services for schools, such as access to specialist resources, unlimited live professional development webinars and SWGfL Whisper, which enables schools to report issues anonymously and directly from their websites.
Securus technology allows schools to monitor activity across their network, including laptops and other devices. Using key words that can be customised for each individual school, a screen capture is taken of any inappropriate activity, providing information about what happened, when it took place and who was involved. Staff can then make an immediate and informed response.
Securus also provides schools with a Safeguarding Handbook that signposts to specific agencies for support and contains up-to-date advice on the issues that may be flagged by its screen grabs. The Handbook includes significant contributions from key organisations such as the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, Papyrus Prevention of suicide, the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation of Trust.
The old adage that it takes a village to raise a child still remains true in the digital age. We need a community of technological, childcare and educational experts to teach the street smarts needed on our virtual streets.