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5 signs it’s time to update your school’s web filter & threat detection tools

January 19, 2023

When the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was passed in 2000, it cemented the fact that school systems have a responsibility to protect their students’ digital welfare. 

However, while CIPA highlighted a dire need to protect impressionable youth, we’ve come a long way from the year 2000. Today’s students were born into a socially connected world where technology continues to evolve at a rapid rate. In fact, according to a study conducted by Nazarene University, less than half of student work is completed using paper and pencil in many schools.

As a result, the protocols that many schools put in place to protect their students in 2000 are now obsolete. Today, school administrators need to be able to:

  • Keep students safe with student threat detection and digital monitoring solutions

  • Reduce support tickets to IT teams

  • Empower teachers with autonomy in the classroom

  • Provide simple, robust reporting tools for teachers and administrators

  • Ensure seamless integration with a variety of student information system (SIS) tools 

  • Offer parent tools, support, and resources

If you’re struggling to determine whether you have the best solution in place and can safely protect your school on the digital frontier, take a step back and evaluate your current CIPA-compliant structure. 

If you and/or your staff is experiencing any of the following issues, it might be time to adopt a more robust web filtering solution

1) Teachers frequently contact IT to override blocked content

As teachers grow more reliant on technology to teach their students, they need greater flexibility and control over their curriculum. Unfortunately, many Internet filters operate with a top-down permissions process that isn’t sustainable (or flexible). 

For instance, if a teacher has created a multimedia lesson plan that includes educational videos and games, they might discover that portions of their immersive lesson plan are blocked by the school’s existing filter — despite the fact that their curriculum is CIPA compliant. As a result, the teacher would need to request an override to access that specific content. 

This puts additional workload on network admins and can be discouraging to teachers. Even more, this complex and siloed approach to filter management can create friction and untrustworthiness between departments, which can negatively impact workplace culture. 

To create a balance between education staff and IT teams, network admins need to be confident that they can maintain compliance at a high level while still giving a fair amount of autonomy to teachers. When this happens, everyone is able to do what they do best, maintain control over the respective responsibilities, and work together effectively.

what to ask edtech providers

2) Your current filtering solution can be bypassed with VPNs & proxies

Twenty years ago, filtering technology was fairly straightforward. This is no longer the case. Tech-savvy students can easily bypass seemingly ironclad filters by using virtual private networks (VPNs), proxies, and various anonymizer sites.

A standard proxy allows students to browse freely on the web without ever changing the URL in the address bar. And while network administrators might have a thorough understanding of how these bypassers work, many teachers don’t. 

Having a filtering solution that can quickly identify both common and complex filter bypassing tricks ensures students stay focused and compliant on your school grounds. 

Reporting capabilities are also crucial when it comes to understanding how VPNs impact your infrastructure and compliance.

With hybrid web filters like School Manager, you can easily create filtered reports that pinpoint what users attempt to access VPNs, when the access attempt occurred, what VPN was visited, and whether the attempt was successful — across any time range. This way, you can quickly identify “repeat offenders” or discover new VPN sites that popped up on the market. 

3) Staff struggle to manage cyberbullying

The majority of adolescents and teens are bullied online — and just as many youth actually initiate bullying. Online bullying is a crisis in many schools around the world. Recognizing and managing bullying is imperative. If you’ve noticed that reports of bullying are increasing or not improving, this is a clear sign that current preventative measures aren’t working. 

While no web filter or screen monitoring technology can offer a cure-all for bullying, wellness-focused edtech solutions are a massive step in the right direction. Equipped with the right compliance technology, staff are able to identify instances of bullying before it becomes serious. 

For example, Linewize Monitor captures device input data and full-path browsing activity in any app or document, whether the school-issued device is online or offline. This way, activity can be assessed holistically and with context in mind. Ultimately, this reduces the amount of false positives and provides a bigger picture of activity and intent. 

4) Difficulty leveraging your solution’s data to improve EdTech efforts

As the saying goes, “data is king.” In the modern education landscape, data is extremely valuable. If your existing web filtering solution doesn’t provide you with enough data to glean patterns within your district, your ability to make relevant, data-backed decisions is compromised. 

A smart CIPA compliant solution provides detailed information about the digital content your students consume, what webpages they stay on the longest, how often students attempt to bypass filters, how often flagged activity occurs, and much more. You can use this information to make safe, healthy adjustments to your policies and protocols. 

5) Dissonance between school and parent community

Parents want to know that their children are safe in your hands, both on-site and offsite. Frequent inquiries and complaints from parents is a tell-tale sign of a communication gap between administration, teachers, counselors, parents, and the community. 

Linewize Community addresses this dissonance by providing a variety of useful resources. Through the Linewize Community program, parents can access online safety education materials, as well as information tailored to their district. Additionally, the Qustodio parent app is designed to provide parents with greater insight into their child’s online activity on school-issued and personal devices. 

Taking the leap

Migrating technology and re-training staff can be an arduous and time-consuming process, but the return on investment is invaluable. Better web filtering solutions help prevent cyber-bullying, keep students focused, ensure parents stay informed, and allow teachers and administrators to do what they do best. 

Antiquated web filtering solutions pose risks in the educational environment; making a proactive decision to better your school is a great way to demonstrate your dedication to your students, your staff, and the community at large. 

Of course, taking any leap to adopt a new EdTech solution is no small hop. We know migrations are a source of discontent for IT teams, which is why we created our Student Safety Audit program. 

student safety audit

This complementary audit allows you to see first-hand how student threat detection technology like Linewize Monitor can help keep students safe. At the end of the audit, you’ll have a better understanding of the risk categories most prevalent in your school district and will be able to make an informed decision on implementing a student safety program in your district. 

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