Blog

How to Build a Comprehensive Digital Safety Strategy

Every school administrator we speak with is focused on finding comprehensive solutions to the digital safety issues their schools and students are facing — and this can be a tough challenge. Esafety tools are more than just “nice to have”. In many cases, digital safety in schools is required by law. For example, The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) legally requires schools to block internet access to material that is considered harmful to minors. When considering safety solutions, administrators and IT staff must also consider cost, integration capabilities, implementation, and upkeep requirements. In addition, comprehensive solutions offer a variety of features, and it can be difficult to ensure no aspect of school or student cyber safety is overlooked.

To help, LanSchool recently announced a three-pronged digital safety solution that brings together best-in-class education technologies for a holistic approach to school and student safety.

“Safety is a top priority for every administrator and IT director, but there’s only so much anyone can do on their own to protect students from digital dangers,” said Coby Gurr, General Manager of Lenovo Software. “LanSchool’s three-pronged online safety solution helps schools leverage a comprehensive ecosystem of smart security tools, keeping kids safer online while empowering them to develop digital literacy skills.”

If you’re in the process of researching digital safety solutions, there are a few key threats you’ll need to understand and address.

Understanding the Threats

Those with malicious or criminal intents often target schools through a wide range of threats. In fact, a report released by the K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center shows that cyber-attacks on schools tripled in 2019, with threats ranging from phishing and malware to ransomware and data theft. As technology continues to revolutionize education, schools rely more heavily on digital solutions to support everything from teaching to operations. Consequently, educators must invest in robust content filtering and threat protection solutions to protect their school networks.

Yet, digital safety extends beyond filtering harmful content or preventing malware threats. A holistic digital safety strategy should also aim to protect the online safety of the students who attend the school. Students are encountering digital dangers at an alarmingly high rate both at home and in the classroom. According to findings from Bark Technologies, over 78% of teens experience cyberbullying. In addition, 84% of teens engage in online conversations about drugs and alcohol, 67% struggle with depression and anxiety, and 54% ultimately become involved in a self-harm situation. Unsurprisingly, many also encounter sexual content (84%) and see or express violent content (89%) while online. Ultimately, school administrators and IT teams must work to implement comprehensive digital safety strategies that protect their schools and students alike.

Building an Online Safety Ecosystem for Schools

To protect against digital threats, school safety solutions must address these three key areas:

  1. Threat protection and content filtering – It’s important to deploy software that protects the school network from external threats like ransomware, malware, and other attacks. If possible, choose a solution that also restricts access to adult content, gambling, weapons, terrorism, alcohol, tobacco, and other inappropriate content. Best in class solutions are powered by artificial intelligence, identifying malicious content in real-time instead of relying on static databases that are often weeks or months out of date.
  2. Monitoring and safety – These solutions monitor school accounts for potential risks, including cyberbullying, threats of violence, and illicit content. Ideally, pick a solution that utilizes artificial intelligence to monitor for concerning keywords and language sentiment in students’ searches and conversations. The purpose is to alert caring adults to potentially harmful behavior so they can proactively offer support and guidance.
  3. Classroom management – Classroom management software gives teachers the ability to view student screens as they work, whether they’re in class or learning from home. Teachers can also block specific sites students can access, so they can keep kids safe and on track. The best classroom management solutions also provide messaging so teachers can better address student questions and social emotional learning needs in the moment.

How to Vet Online Safety Solutions for Schools

Edtech solutions abound, so it’s important to ask the right questions when evaluating e-safety vendors. Every school has different student demographics and unique needs, but here are a few general questions to ask online safety vendors:

Threat protection and content filtering

  • Does the solution meet compliance requirements (e.g. CIPA, FERPA, and COPPA)?
  • Is it a hardware solution that requires updates/patches to be downloaded and installed, or is it a SaaS offering that continually updates?
  • Does the solution utilize artificial intelligence? Is the AI efficient or does it result in false positives? Does the vendor’s solution include manual filtering as part of the process because of inefficiencies?
  • What types of threats does the filter block (e.g. malware, phishing, botnets, cryptomining)?
  • Does the solution enable the user to choose the filtering categories they would like to use?
  • How many domains can be added to a whitelist or blacklist?
  • How quickly does the filtering work? Are domains scanned in real time?
  • What languages are supported?
  • Can the solution catch previously unreported threats from new or suspicious domains?
  • How does the filter verify which sites are threats? Is it using reliable data?
  • Which operating systems does the solution work with (e.g. Chrome, Windows and/or Mac OS)?

Monitoring and safety

  • What types of school accounts does the solution monitor (e.g. G Suite and/or Office 365)?
  • Does the solution monitor all of the channels where students can access /share sensitive information using their student account? For example, can it scan for phrases they type in a Google Doc, even if the phrase is later deleted?
  • What types of monitoring can the solution support? Does it just support keyword monitoring or can it also monitor language sentiment found in emojis, slang, and images?
  • Does the solution leverage artificial intelligence, rather than humans, to process student communication data and flag concerning content? Is that AI backed by humans for verification when needed?
  • What types of information does it flag?
    • Online predators
    • Adult content
    • Sexting
    • Cyberbullying
    • Drug use
    • Depression
    • Suicidal ideation
  • Does the solution include features for sharing content and communicating with parents?
  • Does the solution meet compliance requirements (e.g. CIPA, FERPA, and/or COPPA)?
  • Is the solution encrypted?
  • Does the solution have a strong track record of protecting students online?

Classroom management

  • Are teachers able to see what students are currently working on, whether they’re in class or learning remotely? In other words, does the solution offer a cloud-based option for distance learning?
  • Can teachers limit students’ online access to certain websites without having to go through the IT team (e.g. block certain sites during a test)? 
  • Does the solution offer additional features and benefits, such as screen sharing, messaging, blank screen, and battery status?
  • Does the solution offer automatic rostering to help simplify set up?
  • Can the system push automatic updates to scale with specific school or district needs?

How LanSchool Supports a Holistic Digital Safety Approach

Student and school online safety is a central part of LanSchool’s mission, and we’re uniquely positioned to help. LanSchool’s classroom management software offers powerful features to keep students safer online. Additionally, we’ve partnered with DNS Filter and Bark for Schools, two best-in-class digital safety providers, to make building a safety ecosystem both easy and affordable. Our joint commitment to online safety continues to transform edtech and plays an important role in helping to safeguard schools and students online.

DNSFilter

We’ve partnered with DNSFilter to bring enterprise-level security, priced for education, to our customers. Trusted by the Fortune 500, DNSFilter protects faculty and students from online security threats and inappropriate content.

DNSFilter enables educators to block websites in accordance with The Internet Watch Foundation and Project Arachnid, and ensures schools are CIPA compliant with one click. It also restricts access to inappropriate content and can even block questionable results from search engines.

Educators can install Roaming Clients on individual devices to deploy filtering policies that will be enforced no matter what network a student uses. This means that students and schools are protected regardless if learning happens in the classroom or remotely. Moreover, DNSFilter helps protect a school’s network by seamlessly blocking cyber threats using a categorization engine that is driven by AI and regularly updated.

The LanSchool Offer: Contact us to add DNSFilter on to LanSchool licenses.

Bark

While DNS Filter helps protect schools by eliminating major threat vectors, Bark offers free monitoring on school-issued G Suite and Office 365 accounts to help keep students safer online. The solution helps detect signs of digital dangers like cyberbullying, threats of violence, suicidal ideation, online predators, and more.

Bark’s innovative platform uses advanced artificial intelligence to monitor for signs of potential issues, and its algorithms are always evolving to keep up with how students communicate. This includes monitoring more than just keywords – Bark’s AI can analyze emojis, slang, images, and even text that has been deleted. Additionally, Bark provides a Parent Portal, allowing schools to share responsibility and urgent alerts with families after school hours.

Bark’s track record speaks for itself. In 2019 alone, the software detected more than 5.4 million issues, including more than 878 thousand instances of explicit content, 251 thousand students involved in cyberbullying, and 91 thousand children expressing self-harm, cutting, or suicidal thoughts.

The LanSchool Offer: Bark’s offering is free to all schools. With LanSchool’s partnership, schools can also get free, exclusive access to a new to market Image Removal tool, valued at $2/student.

LanSchool

As a pioneer and innovator of classroom management software, LanSchool has been committed to supporting school and student safety for over thirty years. With LanSchool, teachers can guide classroom learning and keep students safer online with easy-to-use device protection features. Quickly view every student screen — or switch to view individual screens – and keep students safer and focused on their work by limiting online access to approved websites. Plus, students and teachers can easily send messages through the software, giving students another outlet to meet their social emotional learning needs.

With approximately 12 million global users, the solution is compatible with Mac, Windows, and Chromebook devices, and set up is easy with automatic rostering integrations like Clever and Google Classroom. Most importantly, LanSchool offers both cloud-based and locally-hosted options at a single price, ensuring education continuity whether learning happens in the classroom, is blended, or occurs in a fully remote setting. In this climate, students are spending more time than ever online, and we’re committed to keeping them as safe as possible.

The LanSchool Offer: One way to maximize your investment is to take advantage of a special Lenovo hardware-software bundle. LanSchool, a Lenovo product, is included with every Lenovo device purchase and is eligible for a complimentary one-year LanSchool license. Learn more about this offer to receive complimentary classroom management software to ensure safer digital classrooms.

Bringing It All Together

Protecting students doesn’t have to mean going overbudget, and it also doesn’t mean settling for an incomplete solution. For this reason, we’re excited to partner with these great companies to offer schools a complete ecosystem of innovative online safety tools, while managing cost and efficiency.

Yet these tools are not a replacement for an engaged parent or a caring teacher — they’re a support system to help identify concerns earlier so educators and guardians can take meaningful action in supporting and connecting with their students. Digital safety is a multi-faceted challenge, but with the help of the right ecosystem, teachers, school administrators, and IT staff can help protect their schools and work to create better outcomes for all students.

Looking to learn more about LanSchool, DNS Filter, or Bark for Schools? Get in touch with our team to find out how these solutions can help you build a comprehensive safety strategy for your school.

Get in Touch

Contact us today to learn more about LanSchool licenses, features, and benefits.

Try LanSchool for Free

Ready to see how LanSchool can transform your school or district?