Safeguarding / Online safety
In addition to providing technicians with IT Asset Management features (to effectively monitor and manage technology across a school’s sites) and giving teachers optional classroom management tools (to leverage the value of technology-enhanced learning), NetSupport DNA also features a built-in safeguarding/online safety toolkit to help maintain a safe learning environment and meet the latest requirements.
Spot online safety trends
Identify at-risk students
Protect from harmful content
Support digital citizenship
Boost student wellbeing
Meet latest requirements
It’s an essential requirement for schools (and trusts/districts) to have the tools to keep their students safe and secure as they access online resources for learning. Yet the digital environment is constantly shifting, meaning that shielding students from inappropriate content while allowing them the freedom to learn within safe parameters is a constant balancing act.
Teachers, school staff and online safety/safeguarding leads will of course have an idea of which pupils may be more vulnerable – however, the fluid nature of online environments makes it even harder to spot some of the risks.
NetSupport DNA offers an extra pair of eyes and ears, helping to monitor, track and report how potentially at risk students are in their online activity.
Working together with schools, safeguarding leads/school counselors, staff, students and charities such as the Internet Watch Foundation, NetSupport has created a range of proactive and reactive tools that are relevant, effective and, most importantly, up to date.
And best of all, they can be operated independently of the IT team!
What online safety features are included in NetSupport DNA?
Age-appropriate internet control
Keyword and phrase monitoring
Capturing concerning activity
Contextual intelligence-based Risk Index
Reviewing triggered events
Teacher ‘Add a concern’
Word cloud of trending topics
Track ‘at risk’ student activity
History of concerns
Student ‘Report a concern’
Set user views
Reduce false alarms
Acceptable Use Policies
iOS and Android support
Internet and application metering
In line with numerous pieces of official guidance (Prevent Duty, KCSiE, ISTE, CIPA, State laws), schools must have appropriate levels of internet metering in place.
With NetSupport DNA, you can set lists of approved and restricted URLs (including filtering lists such as the Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit) and/or apply sub-URLs centrally to manage access to sites or applications that are regarded as inappropriate/approved by the school. This is a great starting point for online safety.
In addition to restricting websites and applications by their specific name, you can block or restrict apps and games by their window’s title, helping to add a broader layer of security while keeping students on task. For example, you can block an application with the word ‘multi-player’ in the title during school hours but allow it for after-school clubs, if appropriate.
Although it would be easy to restrict everything that could be seen as a risk, in reality, that’s impractical and would impact learning. That’s where the Internet Metering feature in NetSupport DNA comes in. This provides you with a detailed summary of all internet activity on each device by a student – including start and finish times for each URL visited and the active time spent on a page. You can review the results by device or user.
Age-appropriate internet control: To help schools implement a flexible internet access policy that meets the need of particular departments or year groups, NetSupport DNA enables you to create Profiles. This means that groups of devices or students/staff (i.e. year group or department level) can each have their own specific component settings. So, for example, you can apply multiple approved or restricted website lists to specific year groups or implement age-appropriate monitoring and restrictions (i.e. Year/Grade 10/11 pupils can access Facebook as part of their studies).
Keyword and phrase monitoring
Using a database of over 14,000 pre-supplied safeguarding keywords and phrases covering a range of topics from self-harm, bullying and racism, through to risks of radicalisation and child exploitation, NetSupport DNA can monitor your school network for students triggering these terms in the text being typed, copied or searched for.
Capturing concerning activity: Depending on the severity level of the triggered keyword/phrase, the activity can be captured as a simple log, through to a screenshot or a screen recording of the user’s activity. For all events, you can review information including details such as student name, the device being used, and the time it took place, along with the Risk Index analysis – so you know the full background to the event and gain a highly effective way to identify students engaged in concerning activities.
Language packs: A range of language packs is included to ensure your school can monitor concerning activity in students’ first languages. Slang terms are also considered, which can be crucial in intercepting inappropriate communications of young people who can sometimes appear to have their own language!
Updating and sharing your keywords: We update the database regularly with new terms because, as we all know, it’s an ever-changing landscape. To help with this, NetSupport DNA not only gives you the power to add your own keywords to the database that are relevant to your school and community (and even share them across your district/trust), but you can also share them with us if you want to! That way, you can help all schools be as safe as possible by working with us to provide the most up-to-date and relevant keywords.
Contextual intelligence-based Risk Index
In any online safety situation, your platform needs to go beyond simply highlighting worrying words or phrases and expand on the context in which these terms are being used (i.e. whether they are accidental, academic or indicative of risk).
NetSupport DNA’s contextual intelligence-based Risk Index automatically flags high-risk events and vulnerable students, based on sophisticated contextual AI risk analysis. It assesses the context and history of a student’s activities – from the devices used, time of day and websites visited (including previous alerts they may have triggered) – and, from this information, creates a numerical risk index.
A high risk index number could result if a student has repeatedly researched an online safety topic (e.g. suicide) out of hours, in an unmonitored setting such as the library. A lower index rating could result from a student searching a lower risk keyword in a local application during class hours for curriculum topics.
The risk index number is included when reviewing a triggered event, so you can quickly see whether urgent intervention is needed – and, if so, you can do so with the correct professional response.
All the monitoring and assessment of these alerts is done locally by each school (no third-party services are required) and so your data is fully secure.
Word cloud of trending topics
NetSupport DNA creates a word cloud that is generated by the keywords students are using. This helps staff to see at a glance the exact safeguarding topics that are currently trending across the school.
By clicking on any word in the cloud, you can see a full explanation and definition to help you understand the potential risk, along with a detailed list of instances where it has been triggered by your students.
Staff training: Equipped with this knowledge, your school can support a ‘whole school approach’ and ensure staff are kept abreast of new keywords and are fully informed of any escalating trends, so that they can intervene where necessary to ensure students are kept safe.
Digital citizenship: It’s not just school staff who can learn from this; the information can also offer useful ‘teachable’ moments for the students. Using the optional classroom management toolkit (NetSupport School), teachers can raise awareness of the concerns that students may already be discussing or searching for themselves, monitor and remote control students’ screens, and share their own screen to help demonstrate online safety and appropriate online behaviour – all in a safe learning environment.
Keeping track of events
All new triggers are highlighted as such, and when you are reviewing them, you can mark them as ‘in progress’ or ‘complete’. Each status has a different colour code and you can filter the main view to only show certain statuses (i.e. new triggers only). This is extremely useful to help you to keep track of which ones need reviewing or to let supporting staff know where to pick up if you are on holiday.
You can print, save, email or take a screengrab of the results to forward to a colleague to follow up on. By selecting History, it will show which safeguarding/online safety console staff have viewed the event.
Re-assigning concerns: You may sometimes need to re-assign concerns to another person, for example, if you are on leave. In this case, the concern you were dealing with can be re-directed to another staff member, with both of you being automatically notified of the change via email.
Teacher ‘Add a concern’: In situations where a teacher is verbally told of a student’s concern, they can log it via the ‘Add concern’ button on the safeguarding navigation tab. The school DSL/counselor can also use this to method to quickly transfer and record any paper-based concerns into NetSupport DNA.
Teachers can select which member of staff they would like to report the student’s concern to, enabling that person to track the concern, re-assign it and record any follow-up actions directly from within NetSupport DNA.
Not only does this help to stop any incidents recorded onto pieces of paper from going missing, but it helps prevent the concern from being forgotten about or not being reported or recorded correctly.
Keeping track of students
‘Vulnerable’ students: Authorised staff can flag at-risk students on the system so they can be easily identified and tracked as an extra layer of support. NetSupport DNA also provides these as a dynamic group, so you can see all vulnerable students across the school in a single view.
History of concerns: Authorised staff can also see a history of concerns for a specific student, laid out in calendar format. This provides the opportunity to review the pattern and details of issues raised over time.
Proactive tools for students
Report a concern: Ensuring students can report a concern they might have is key to an effective safeguarding/online safety policy. NetSupport DNA includes a way for students to report their concerns in confidence to a trusted member of staff via the ‘Report a concern’ option.
The school can define as many staff as they wish on the system – and even select which teachers are available for students to report concerns to via Profiles. This is especially useful for schools in multi-academy trusts or districts, who can simply select the relevant profile displaying the safeguarding contacts for their own school.
Students can share their problem from any NetSupport DNA-enabled device by sending a message, screenshots or documents to their chosen staff member. The member of staff is instantly alerted when a concern is raised and they can then track it and record any follow-up actions directly from within NetSupport DNA.
Authorised staff at the school can be assigned rights to view all concerns raised and they will be alerted if any concern is not actioned within a pre-defined time. The key to this feature is to offer simplicity and ease of access for students, with the flexibility and safeguards to ensure it is effective.
Online self-service resources: Students can access online support resources – covering topics such as FGM, drug addiction, grooming and bullying – all from the NetSupport DNA online safety icon on their PC. Staff can also manage the pre-populated list and add any additional ones they feel are appropriate.
Set user views: When NetSupport DNA is used across schools that are linked (e.g. multi-academy trust or school districts), on an operational level, this feature allows a school to see its own data, while that of other schools is unavailable. At a higher level, the data across all of the separate sites can be seen and analysed as a consolidated report.
Reducing false alarms: NetSupport DNA then uses advanced neurolinguistics to analyse the context of possible matches, so as to avoid false positives. If a keyword is triggered which the school regards as a false match, you can add a ‘false alarm’ note to explain why. The severity level for individual keywords and phrases can also be adjusted.
You can also choose whether to exclude certain applications from monitoring to reduce the occurrence of false alarms. So, for example, if students are using PowerPoint or Excel, these could be omitted from monitoring – allowing staff to focus on more high-risk areas.
Acceptable Use Policies
NetSupport DNA also reminds students of the role they play in their own online safety by asking them to agree to the school’s Acceptable Use Policy before going online.
Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) form an integral part of ensuring students and staff are aware of any safeguarding policies in place and agree to the terms before using school resources. Multiple policies are supported and schools can also use the ‘Health and Social Distancing’ policy template to support a safe learning environment with any new safety information across the school.
iOS and Android support
Adding to the breadth of platforms supported, the Android Browser app within NetSupport DNA (v4.5 and above) allows schools to monitor and manage Android device activity, including real-time monitoring via thumbnails view, as well as including Report a concern, Phrase Monitoring, Safeguarding Resources, Chat and Message features.
Meanwhile, the iOS Browser app (for iOS 9.3 and above) brings together the functionality previously available separately in the NetSupport DNA Browser and NetSupport School Student apps to make app use simpler and more streamlined for those using NetSupport DNA or NetSupport School – or both!
It means that any student using iOS devices can now access Safeguarding Resources and the ‘Report a concern’ tool, while the safeguarding lead can monitor keywords and phrases triggered from the device. If the school also uses NetSupport School, they can set Internet Metering and restrictions on the students’ iOS devices.
Policies and requirements (USA/International)
- ISTE standards
- CIPA standards
- ESSER Funding
- California – Seth’s Law
- New York – Dignity Act
- North Carolina – Bully Prevention Legislation
- Oklahoma – Safety and Bullying Prevention Act
- Florida – Jeff’s Law
- New Mexico – Safe Schools for All Students Act
- Texas – David’s Law
- Washington – Anti-Bullying Legislation
- Colorado – Anti-bullying Legislation
- Ohio – Jessica Logan Act
Policies and requirements (UK)
Other helpful resources
Online Safety – Trends and Tips Panel Discussion