School News published a story last week about cyber threats faced by kids learning at home and here is an update about a safety filter built specifically to address this.
Network for Learning (N4L) has developed a safety filter to make the internet safer for all students learning from home that parents can set up on their children’s learning device to block the worst of the web. Parents can apply to their child’s device at no cost, to keep them safer online at home by following the basic online instructions.
Launched in time for schools resuming online classes in Term 2 as students gradually return from lockdown, the N4L safety filter is part of a new initiative to provide safer connectivity for learning while students are away from school called “Switch on Safety.”
Principal Sose Annandale of Russell School in Porirua is encouraging her parent community to apply the N4L safety filter to their child’s devices: “Online safety at home is paramount. It’s really important the kids have the N4L filter on their kids’ devices to help protect them from unsavoury websites, and stop them going to places where bad apps are lurking and can cause harm.
“Parents are under a lot of stress and pressure adapting to a new way of life with children learning at home, and the filter helps relieve some of these anxieties. It also fits really well with our ‘kawa of care’ programme around digital citizenship, where our students sign an agreement to take care of our Chromebooks at home and show healthy behaviours online.”
The initiative is supported by Netsafe and the Ministry of Education and its filter has blocked more than 570,000 harmful websites and 152,000 online threats since it was launched on 14 April, according to an N4L spokesperson.
The filter blocks access to a range of websites known to be unsafe and inappropriate for learning. These include adult websites, as well as those known to host unsafe software, such as malware and phishing scams.
The new safety filter is an extension of one of the multiple safety and security services N4L has in place at schools, and is available at no cost to students and teachers for the next two years.
Bream Bay College in Northland’s Ruakaka was one of the schools involved in early testing of the filter over the weekend. Principal Wayne Buckland said he’d been fielding questions from parents wondering if there would be filtering in place for home learning: “We see the safety filter being really helpful for our students and parents. It will help relieve some of the anxiety from our parent community who are concerned about the safety of their children online at a time when there are all sorts of scams and phishing going on.”
Deidre Senior, principal of Oamaru’s Weston School sent printed instructions from the website to go along with the devices being sent out to children.She said:
“When we learned devices were going into homes, my biggest concern was what websites the kids might access if there was no filtering in place like we have at school. The N4L filter helps us support parents who may not be aware of all the dangers online; particularly the families without devices and limited internet, whose children are getting a device to use at home for the first time.”
N4L CEO Larrie Moore stressed that technology is not a silver bullet and must be combined with good digital citizenship advice provided by organisations like Netsafe to keep children safe online. N4L’s safety filter will be made available on the laptops provided by the Ministry of Education to students in need.
The technology underpinning the filter is provided to N4L by global cyber security company Akamai Technologies, and is used by governments and businesses across the globe.
In addition to the safety filter, N4L is providing support for the Ministry’s distance learning programme by ensuring teachers can access schools systems and documents stored on the schools network securely, while working from home.