Appropriate Filtering and Monitoring

Guide for education settings and filtering providers about establishing 'appropriate levels’ of filtering and monitoring

UK Safer Internet CentreSchools in England (and Wales) are required “to ensure children are safe from terrorist and extremist material when accessing the internet in school, including by establishing appropriate levels of filtering”.

Furthermore, the Department for Education published proposed changes to ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ for consultation in December 2015. Amongst the proposed changes, schools will be obligated to “ensure appropriate filters and appropriate monitoring systems are in place. Children should not be able to access harmful or inappropriate material from the school or colleges IT system” however, schools will need to “be careful that “over blocking” does not lead to unreasonable restrictions as to what children can be taught with regards to online teaching and safeguarding.”

So what does ‘appropriate’ actually mean?

The UK Safer Internet Centre, led by SWGfL and in collaboration with 360 degree safe assessors and the NEN, recently published a considered definition of what constitutes ‘appropriate filtering’ and ’appropriate monitoring’, primarily aimed at supporting schools in assessing their own filtering and monitoring provision.

"One of the most common questions that the UK Safer Internet Centre Helpline received from schools has reflected the anxiety around what constitutes ‘appropriate filtering and monitoring’. We’re delighted with the welcome that these new definitions have received by both schools and providers alike; providing the structure for schools to better understand their filtering and monitoring services and providers to articulate how their systems work". Director, UK Safer Internet Centre (SWGfL)

The definition includes 3 sections, covering illegal online content, inappropriate online content and additional system features, enabling schools to consider their system provision to determine if it is ‘appropriate’. The guidance can be viewed and downloaded from the UK Safer Internet Centre website.

Written by Safeguarding Essentials on May 12, 2016 10:04

Using monitoring software to help keep children e-safe.

Our partners at Point2Protect discuss how device monitoring can provide vital intelligence to help improve e-safety education

Some commentators suggest that monitoring software is a bad thing, used only to spy on young people, intruding into their privacy, and that all we really need to do to keep them safe is talk to them about the dangers they face in the online world.

At Point2Protect, we disagree. We believe that technology can play an important part in any e-safety strategy, providing vital intelligence and understanding which can then lead to better informed engagement.

So, what can technology show you and how can it be used to help keep children and young people safer? Let’s take a tour of the Qustodio technology we use at Point2Protect, as an example of the type of monitoring and moderation you could be using.

The Qustodio technology works at a device level, which means that you need to install it on each device you want to monitor, whether it’s a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone. Once you’ve done this, you register each device to your Qustodio account and then specific data is sent to your secure online dashboard, wherever that device is used.

To see a larger version of the sample screenshots, simpy click on each image

Summary Dashboard
When you sign in to the Qustodio dashboard, you’ll arrive at a page that provides a quick summary of how the devices registered to this profile have been used recently. A profile contains a set of rules you want applied to the devices registered to it. So a school might have a profile for all Year 7 devices, while a parent might have a different profile for each of their children. This enables the rule set to be appropriate to the age of the children being monitored.

The example page here is showing activity from a Windows laptop, an iPad and an Android smartphone over a 30 day period. You can see that it reports on categories of use, such as surfing news web sites, as well as specific applications such as Microsoft Outlook.

Summary Dashboard
Scrolling further down this first summary page shows a word cloud and then three columns. The word cloud is really useful, as it shows the search terms used on all the monitored devices over the last 30 days. This provides a simple and immediate insight into areas of interest and will quickly highlight anything that might need to be followed up.

Below the word cloud, the three columns show the most popular apps being used, the web sites being frequently visited and the top contacts (I’ve hidden the third column detail deliberately). By clicking on any content in these columns you can immediately apply a filter. So, for example, if you decide that Facebook isn’t appropriate for the eight year old children using these devices, you can instantly block it in both the app and web site columns. This rule will then apply across all the devices registered to this profile.

The third column shows contact to a smartphone from calls, text messages, Twitter and Facebook. We don’t delve any further into these contacts by, for example, reading their text messages or recording calls, as we feel this would be too intrusive. So it’s possible to see who children are in regular contact with and so judge whether these contacts are appropriate, but the content of these conversations remains private.

Summary Dashboard
Beyond the summary level, for each of the main activity areas (app usage, web browsing, social activity, etc.) there’s a more detailed view of all usage – for example, the timeline of all web activity shown here. This enables you to see minute-by-minute detail on web sites being visited or YouTube videos being viewed.

Another feature that’s particularly popular with parents is geolocation, which can pop up a Google map showing where a smartphone is at any time. This is also helpful for schools to keep tabs on any mobile devices like tablets that the students may use on a 1-2-1 basis.

Summary Dashboard
In an ideal world, schools will be working closely with parents to ensure that children are being protected wherever they are and not just when on the school premises. One Qustodio feature that immediately appeals to parents is the smartphone Panic Button. When pressed, this sends a text or email message to the key account contact informing them that the child feels unsafe and then showing details of their current location.

Summary Dashboard
All the filtering and moderation functions of Qustodio are controlled from the single Rules tab. Here you can manage web sites by category, or select specific web sites to allow or stop. You can also allow or disable specific apps, or set up time limits for each day’s use of certain apps. All the controls in Qustodio, and we’ve only seen a few of these here, are designed to be easy to use for the non-technical.

Summary Dashboard
You can even create a schedule for all the devices registered to this profile in the account. So, for example, you could stop all devices from working after 10pm on a school night, or from working outside school hours. Once you’ve established the rule set for a profile, you can check-in to the dashboard when you wish, or set Qustodio to email a weekly report to you, or to parents.

Clearly Qustodio is a very powerful tool to provide both schools and parents with a clearer understanding of how the children and young people in their care are experiencing the online world. The understanding of it enables better, more targeted conversations to take place, as well as highlighting areas where extra support or teaching may be necessary.

We would emphasise that technology like Qustodio should be seen as a piece in the jigsaw of effective e-safety and not a solution in itself. At Point2Protect we believe that it’s absolutely critical to follow up understanding with engagement and education, and we provide content and resources to support that approach, including the excellent E-Safety Support service on this web site.

However, one thing is certain. If monitoring technology such as Qustodio is being used as part of an effective, wide-ranging, community-wide e-safety strategy, we will all be less likely to hear either schools or parents saying, in the wake of a serious incident, that they had no way of knowing what the children and young people in their care had been doing online in recent months. That surely has to be a good thing.

We are delighted to announce that Point2Protect will be offering a prize as part of the E-safety Support, Safer Internet Day Competition. Each of the UK category winners will receive a 100 device licence for their school for a year. Click here for competition details.

Written by Ian Skeels - Point2Protect on November 19, 2015 12:55

Interpreting the Ofsted Requirements for E-safety - Part 4

This is the fourth and final of a series of articles looking at the demands of the Ofsted’s e-safety framework first published to inspectors in September 2012. The document has since seen a number of amendments, the latest of which was in April 2014.

In the last post, we focused at two areas of the framework policy document; Policies and Education. In this last blog we are going to look at the final two areas for consideration, those being Infrastructure and Monitoring & Evaluation.


This part of the Ofsted e-safety framework concentrates on the aspects concerning the facilities, duties and responsibilities with regard to the school’s IT infrastructure.

In order to demonstrate good or outstanding practice with regard to e-safety, Ofsted will be looking to see if the school’s IT infrastructure meets a number of requirements:

  • The school’s infrastructure includes a ‘Recognised Internet Service Provider’ or Regional Broadband Consortium’.

  • The school has age-related filtering in place and that the filtering allows choice with regard to what staff and students can access and when that access is allowed.

  • - Schools should have in place a web traffic monitoring tool such as the one supplied by SWGfL
    - It is advisable that a school should analyse their web traffic at the very least once a month, preferably more often.

  • The filtering is pro-actively monitored in order that inappropriate sites that come to the attention of staff can be actively filtered.

  • When considering whether a site should be unfiltered, a number of questions should be asked of the web site:
    1. Are there clear reasons, associated with the school curriculum, for the site to become unfiltered?
    2. Is there any contentious content contained within the website?
    3. When logging on to the site, do users have to register?
    4. If, by allowing access, it could appear that the school is endorsing the site, does this create any problems?
    5. Are there any age-restrictions stated on the web site?
    6. If it is a site where students could upload content to it, what is the situation with regard to ownership of such material?
    7. If students can upload content to it, who can view the material?
    8. Are there any facilities for social-networking on the site that allows users to communicate?
    9. If this is a site is unfiltered so that students could use it outside of school hours, are there any issues with unsupervised access?
    10. Is there any evidence or content to suggest that the website has been created by a reliable organisation?

    When checking sites, it is doubtful that all the questions above would be answered positively and so schools would have to employ their own judgement as to whether the benefits of using the site outweigh any issues.

    Monitoring and Evaluation

    This section of the Ofsted framework focuses on how e-safety in the school is formally and professionally monitored and evaluated. With regard to good or outstanding practice, Ofsted is looking for certain aspects to be demonstrated:

  • Whether the e-safety risk assessment is taken seriously within the school.

  • - An example of this could be in the context of social networking, where the risk is foreseen that some situation could occur identified and a process put in place to alleviate it.
    - The use of monitoring software can help identify potential e-safety risks.

  • That the risk assessment is used to good affect to promote excellent e-safety practice both within and outside of the school environment.

  • - There is a common misconception that the stories in the media of students getting into problematic situations when using technology won’t occur in our schools, unfortunately this is just a case of ‘burying our heads in the sand’. Good or outstanding practice demands that risk should to be comprehensively identified by schools and mitigation processes implemented (if it can be) to deal with it.
    - All risk assessment and mitigation processes should be immersed in policy, it is suggested that there should be documented evidence of this, for example it could be recorded that risk assessment drove the identification of training requirements, the need for formal reporting procedures or a guidance document for the acceptable use of social networks. (There are resources available across E-safety Support to help support these outcomes)

  • Evidence that formally gathered data is used effectively to assess what impact e-safety practice is having on the school community and procedures and the manner in which this informs the strategy.

  • - It is suggested that any school should have a formal reflective process which is recorded, for example documented records of any issue that has occurred in school, whether the relevant policies and procedures were effective and whether they needed updating or modifying. Did the issue identify a need for additional staff training in the area concerned etc.

    This was the final article in the Interpreting Ofsted series. If you would like to add your comments or suggestions to help other schools, please use the comments section below.

    Written by Steve Gresty on May 15, 2014 08:57

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