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Norfolk schools install kid-monitoring software

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Norfolk CC is using monitoring software to fight bullying and protect children from internet grooming.

It has set up a managed service for primary schools and is encouraging higher schools to use a software developed by Securus to identify threats to children coming through school networks.

Andrew White, integrated services officer the council's children's services ICT support unit, said it has helped to reduce bullying in the county's schools.

"By implementing Securus it was found that the amount of 'off task' activity decreases rapidly over a short period of time," he said. "Schools using Securus can be confident that their network is constantly being monitored for any infringements of their acceptable use policy and anti-bullying policy."

Speaking to GC News on 4 June 2007, White said the software monitors emails coming onto the schools' networks. It searches for inappropriate words and phrases, monitoring potentially harmful activities whether pupils and teachers are using the internet and email, or working offline in other applications such as Word.

It also provides screenshots of every violation, along with details of the user, workstation, time, date and nature of the incident, to give teachers evidence in dealing with the problem.

New terms can be added to the system when needed, and it can spot insults or threats in text language.

"Children come to the school in the knowledge that if they are using the school's system to open emails staff will pick up any threats," White said.

Some 30 primary and 20 secondary schools in the region now use the software and the council has reported a marked decrease in bad behaviour online.

White said that, while secondary schools are running the system for themselves, the primary schools are using the council's managed service.

"Primary schools in particular don't have the time or resources to research and run this type of technology," he said. "So the council does this for them – checking the violations, saving any serious incidents and passing them to the school to decide on what further action to take."

He added that the process is permissible under the Data and Telecommunications Act as the schools make people aware that they have it in place.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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