Safeguarding considerations when loaning young people digital equipment
In these challenging times schools have been doing all they can to enable access to learning resources for those families that need extra support. As the current situation is set to continue for some time then blended or remote learning will likely be a consideration for all schools as they cope with groups of pupils self-isolating. If you’re supplying a device (and connectivity) to a young person or their family to help them to learn at home, you should consider a few key points to ensure that you’re doing it in the safest way possible:
Acceptable use policy (AUP)
You should have a specific AUP that spells out the responsibilities of the young person, and their parent(s) or carer(s), for how they use the device and what the implications are for using it inappropriately
Online safety resources/support
You should provide parents / carers with appropriate resources to ensure that they can support their child in using the device in an appropriate way and respond properly if things go wrong. These resources should be relevant to your school community, so it may be inappropriate to just provide links to websites if you know that the family’s computer literacy or language skills are not adequate
Rather than relying on a home broadband’s parental controls or the very limited mobile filtering provided with a SIM card, consider applying filtering to the device so that you have some control over what a young person can access when they connect the device to the internet. Currently, we’re seeing more young people accessing pornography and other age-inappropriate material, as well as using social media throughout the night. It is worth noting that this is generally Instagram messages and other chat, with no use of Facebook by young people.
Digital monitoring software can alert you to potential safeguarding concerns as well as to risky or inappropriate behaviour on the device. It’s important to understand exactly how the software that you choose works and its limitations so that you have an appropriate level of cover. Entrust’s recommended monitoring software, unlike some of the others, covers what’s typed on the device as well as what’s displayed on the screen. The latter is particularly important for picking up information that the young person is receiving through email and chat, such as bullying, threatening or grooming messages.
Digital monitoring service
Appropriate staff members need to regularly review the information that’s generated by monitoring software, and this takes time. Using a digital monitoring service will ensure that information is reviewed in a timely manner and any potential issues are escalated.
Will users have their own username or a generic one to use the device? This is a particularly important point to consider with monitoring software as it captures information against the username and machine name. If young people are logging on with a generic account such as ‘user’ or ‘student’, you’ll need to keep a record of which student has which machine name in case you need to follow up on a safeguarding issue.
Discuss with your technical support how the device will receive the latest security patches and updates to keep it protected against viruses and malware, and how you will control access as well as what software or apps are installed on it.
Our digital monitoring service has seen firsthand some of the damaging behaviours from children online, ranging from searches on self-harm and suicide through to primary school children chatting to strangers online. Therefore, it is imperative we look to protect our young children whilst they learn remotely and in the classroom on digital devices. Schools need to consider the additional risk that may be introduced when a device is supplied to a family, what you can do to limit this and how you will respond when issues arise. If you would like any more advice or information on our safeguarding suite please get in touch.