5 essentials for Digital Monitoring

How to Use Digital Monitoring To Support Vulnerable Students Returning to School (post shelter)

5 Essentials Every District Leader Needs to Know

If your district is yet to take its first exploratory steps into Digital Monitoring now may be the time. Students coming back to school may have been impacted by isolation in any number of ways. These may include anxiety, paranoia, lack of confidence, inability to focus in class, the list goes on. And while many of these mental states and emotions will be evident to the eyes and ears of teachers, there will be a quotient of students who may be suffering in silence.

Not every at-risk student will be happy to confide in an adult, or even in their peers. But yet the earlier that concern is recognized, the earlier the support invention, and the better the outcome for all involved. It’s a challenge many schools face and it boils down to spotting risks that are largely invisible.

And this is where digital monitoring can help.

Here are a few starting points on getting to grips with digital monitoring.

1. What is it?

2. How does it help your students?

3. How does it help your schools?

4. Is it worth the investment? Shouldn’t web filtering be enough?

5. Do you have enough students at-risk to warrant it?

1. What is it?

Digital Monitoring sits on a computer, laptop or tablet and takes a silent screen capture whenever the user types in words or phrases that may indicate a risk. A risk word or phrase usually falls into 1 of 18 categories, (drugs, gang membership, extremism, self-harm, suicide, cyberbullying, sexual grooming and others.) The captured words and context are assessed by the software to determine whether they are genuine or a false positive (such as research for a school project).

If genuine and considered serious, the capture is passed to a team of human moderators who assess it to determine whether there is a risk to the student’s health or even life. The school is then notified so that further investigation can take place and any support the student needs is provided.

If there is a suspected risk to life, the school will be contacted by phone 24/7. Lower level risks remain in the Monitor Dashboard so that the school’s designated person can spot any emerging trends and/or compare with other known risk factors contained on the student record. (Smoothwall Monitor can integrate with your SIS or our own Smoothwall Record Manager to give a more holistic view of a child’s wellbeing.)

2. How does it help your students?

Students will often confide in a friend before they confide in an adult. And that might be online in a forum or chat room or social platform. Sometimes they will express their thoughts and feelings to themselves in a document that may be quickly deleted. As an example, Smoothwall’s own research shows that only 5% of students would confide in a teacher if they were being cyberbullied. Yet 95% of teachers said they rely on students to tell them if they are affected. That’s an alarming disconnect and shows students’ reticence to ask for help.

Digital Monitoring works alongside the eyes and ears of a teacher to help make the invisible visible. Here’s just a tiny snapshot of findings from Smoothwall Monitor during 2019.

Smoothwall Stats

As schools re-emerge post shelter, the ability to spot vulnerable students who may be unwilling or unable to openly express their feelings is critical. Added to this is the known rise in online predatory behavior actively targeting young people made vulnerable by the pandemic. Both factors suggest monitoring should now be high on any school district’s agenda.

3. How does it help your school?

Monitoring technology not only helps individual students, it can also help educate an entire school community. One school uses its monitoring technology to spot trends that can be addressed en-masse in school assemblies as well in the classroom. For example, if several captures are made of profanity or a harmful online game, or if several students have expressed a fear about a particular event in the news the school will address them openly in assemblies. They may arrange a special assembly if appropriate, as well as create lessons around the topic to help understanding or 1:1 sessions if needed.

Addressing early stage concerns like this provides a more supportive and positive school experience and therefore promotes better learning.

In January 2020 a school won top honors for their use of Smoothwall Monitor at the global BETT awards in London, (the world’s biggest edtech convention).

Important to note too that Smoothwall Monitor exceeds all requirements for the protection of student privacy and holds all 4 IKeepsafe accreditations.

4. Is it worth the investment? Isn’t Web Filtering enough?

Some school districts believe that web filtering is enough and that Monitoring is either just an extra or a premium product more suited to the biggest districts with the biggest budgets. This simply isn’t true.

Web filtering blocks inappropriate content and reports on inappropriate websites that have been blocked. But it can’t review keystrokes, nor can it spot risk words or phrases typed into a website, Word document, social forum, encrypted app or any other digital document. Filtering blocks whereas Monitoring scans and alerts. They are a crucial partnership working hand in hand to protect students and keep your school fully compliant with filtering and monitoring federal laws.

5. Do you have enough students at-risk to warrant it? Can you try before you buy?

The vast majority of schools who use monitoring are shocked by the vulnerabilities it uncovers – ie, students who felt unable to ask for help and were being missing with eyes and ears alone. They  wonder how they managed without it. But the important thing is to review the technology for yourself.

Smoothwall makes this process very easy for schools and their Districts. We can provide a detailed demonstration and information session to make sure everyone involved in the decision have their questions answered and are fully informed. We can provide contracts from as little as one month allowing you to evaluate with no risk. Or if you sign up for longer we can provide the first three months free of charge so you benefit from extra savings too.

In the first instance, the majority of schools enjoy the benefits of an online walk-through. It allows them, along with any other interested colleagues, to hear a Smoothwall Expert explain how it all works and answer their questions.

Walk-throughs are a great informal way to get to know the solution. They are without any obligation and help you to better understand monitoring technology used in schools, either for now or simply for future reference.

To book your online walk-through, simply click here to choose a date and time convenient to you and we’ll do the rest.

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