Winter Blues: Warning Signs of Depression

blog-3-depression-01Wintertime is a season to snuggle up in blankets, drink warm cocoa, and stay cozy with family and friends in front of a warm hearth. Unfortunately, depression doesn’t follow a 9am-5pm schedule with a break for the holidays, and some of those very loved ones might be experiencing painful seasonal sadness.

Depression isn’t a made-up illness, and often impacts one’s emotional wellbeing and close relationships. In those situations, everyone is affected. Different types of depression, like major depressive disorder and seasonal depression, exist and influence how long or how severe the depression is. With all those variables, would you know if your child is depressed? Here are some common symptoms:

Emotional

  1. A persistently sad, numb, or hopeless mood towards life.
  2. General irritability or restlessness over minor issues; could even include outbursts of anger.
  3. Feeling worthless or guilty, with a fixation on past failures and blaming oneself.
  4. Visibly on edge and struggling to relax.

Social/Mental

  1. Diminished interest or pleasure in hobbies or activities, especially ones they used to love. Disinterest in or feeling burdened by social activities or engagement with others.
  2. Trouble concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things.

Physical

  1. Difficulties with sleeping, including insomnia or oversleeping.
  2. Decreased energy and general tiredness. Small tasks seem to take extra effort.
  3. Changes in appetite or weight that can include weight loss and lowered appetite, or overeating and weight gain.
  4. Persistent and/or unexplained physical problems like headaches, back pain, digestive problems, etc.

Original Source: DignityHealth.org

It’s important to note that not every depressed person will exhibit all of these signs. Some may even show only a few. It’s crucial to not only be aware of the warning signs, but assess the context of each individual’s situation before you decide an approach.

No one is born knowing how to deal with these situations, and it’s understandable to be flummoxed by the realization that someone you know might be experiencing painful thoughts. There are plenty of ways to approach and help, whether you see them at home or at school.

For answers to FAQ on the treatment and recognition of mental health disorders, click here.

If you or someone you know are experiencing pain or suicidal thoughts, there is always help:

What to Expect from Securly in 2018

classroom, securly, parents, student safety, online

2017 was a year of immense growth for us. Securly now has 70+ employees across California, North Carolina, and India. Our Charlotte and India offices continue to expand, and we moved our HQ in Silicon Valley to a new office 3x the size of our old space.

Our main goal for 2017 was to innovate, innovate, and innovate. And as always, with the intention to secure ubiquitous child safety both at school and at home. In our path to achieving this goal, we pledge to create affordable, innovative products – so that schools and parents never have to compromise on student safety. We accomplished a lot this past year, and are excited to share our new products with you soon. 2018 here we come!

COMING SOON

Classroom

With this free feature, we let teachers become the IT admins of their own classroom. They can track assignments and whitelist/blacklist sites. Classroom works in conjunction with Google Classroom, helping teachers keep students on track to maximize the benefits of EdTech. Sign up for our priority list here.

24

We’re offering a 24/7 crisis support team because cyberbullying, depression, and self-harm are not bound by a 9-5 schedule. 24 automatically observes a student’s activity on the web, social media, and Youtube. When activity is flagged, a trained staff member will review the context in which it was used and the user’s history for insight into the bigger picture. Able to recognize the nuances of language and critically analyze a user’s history, a human can make determinations that technology may overlook. If flagged activities are cause for alarm, a 24 staff member will alert a counselor in real-time via text or, if necessary, a phone call.

Plug n’ Play

Parents can design an at-home Internet experience that is personalized for their children. Just connect the plug n’ play hub to your wifi router and rest assured your kids are browsing safely.  Parents can change the filter settings, block any inappropriate sites, set time limits, and receive optional e-mail reports and notifications. Parent wifi is not affected.

And in case you missed it, here’s a list of other features that make Securly the best web filter:

 

For more information about new product features, subscribe to our newsletter:


Classroom by Securly – helping teachers manage EdTech for free.

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Background

EdTech is booming. The industry has accumulated $887M in funding in the first half of this year already. Many schools continue to adopt a 1:1 environment, a program that offer students autonomy and access; yet many teachers and parents feel they lack the required structure to optimize success. Thus, the need for classroom management tools is becoming imperative. These tools allow teachers to know track student progress and productivity, allowing classroom interaction to continue into the virtual world.

However, classroom management assistance became commodified as soon as its need was realized. With all the costs schools incur, additional classroom tools tend to be a lower priority than online safety and security features which are required by law.

 

Our Solution

To ensure that schools never have to compromise, we are planning to release a free, classroom management tool at the start of 2018. Called Classroom by Securly, it will work in conjunction with Google Classroom, and allows teachers the ability to be the IT admins of their own classrooms. This will provide educators the ability to whitelist websites that are relevant to their class and block all others. Ultimately, this tool will help teachers keep students on track to maximize the benefits of EdTech.

“We want teachers to be able to walk into their classroom and know that kids can only access whitelisted content,” says Bharath Madhusudan, CTO and co-founder of Securly. “Giving teachers control over their classroom means kids have to focus on math, history, English, whatever. They can’t distract themselves, even if they want to.”

 

The first to receive Classroom by Securly will be those educators on a priority list. To sign up for the priority list, click here.

 

You Down With FTP? (Yeah, You Know Me!)

Put your books down, class. It’s time for a pop quiz. Who knows what FTP stands for?

Free Tibetan Puppies?

Flossing Tackles Periodontitis?

&%$@ The Pistons!

If you guessed ‘None of the above’ or even ‘Geez, that last one seems really negative and I highly recommend some anger management tools’ you’re correct!

IMG_20171025_121134_Bokeh.jpgSameer Waskar (red), Mahesh Digarse (light yellow), and Shreyas Moghe (dark yellow) work together to determine the appropriate emoticon for stoicism. Stop suggesting the eggplant, Sameer.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is commonly used for exchanging files over the Internet. FTP uses the Internet’s TCP/IP protocols to enable data transfer. It uses a client-server architecture, often secured with SSL/TLS.

The parent CSV come straight out of the Student Information System (SIS). Most SIS systems offer a FTP upload option out of the box. This allows EdTech tools that rely on data such as rostering and grade information to do what they do. Securly is now among the EdTech products supporting the SFTP option for direct SIS exports.

Securly uses SFTP (FTP over SSH), a connection that requires a user id and password to connect to the SFTP server. It’s important to note that any user ids and passwords supplied over the SFTP connection will be encrypted, which is a big advantage over standard FTP.

How is it useful:

  • Allows you to transfer multiple files as well as directories
  • The ability to resume a transfer if the connection is lost
  • The ability to add items to a “queue” to be uploaded/downloaded
  • Many FTP clients have the ability to schedule transfers
  • No size limitation on single transfers (browsers only allow up to 2 GB)
  • Many clients have scripting capabilities through command line
  • Most clients have a synchronizing utility
  • Faster transfers than HTTP

So, there you go! Useful information about FTP, more detail about why Securly uses SFTP, and more acronyms than you could possibly stomach in a single sitting.

 

Guard yourself against these 3 things

cyberbullying, school, parents, online student safety, Securly

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Each week in October is dedicated to a different cyber security theme, and features appropriate resources to help all internet users protect themselves from threats online.

Both children and adults should be cautious of their interactions online, while also considering whom they are dealing with:

BOTS

Bots are useful tools and potentially constitute 60% of website traffic. However, they are oftentimes employed to conduct cybercriminal activity. They are a type of malware, allowing hackers to remotely take control over the infected computer.

Bots can be website scrapers and spammers, while extensive “botnets” (an army of infected computers) can take down a website in mere seconds called a Denial-of-Service Attack. Bots send viruses and are often used to steal personal information (credit card information, bank credentials, social security numbers), putting victims at risk of fraud.

STRANGERS

The digital age promised to bring the world closer – and indeed the younger generation seems to be reflecting the sentiment, sharing increasingly more personal information with strangers online. The study extrapolates that 1 in 5 people share sensitive data (including passport scans, bank information, and personal documents) online with others they do not know well.

Neglecting to install proper security measures or voluntarily sharing personal information introduces many risks, from Venmo scams and fraud to sexual predators.

PEERS

Incorporating people from your physical environment into your online social community may seem like a natural extension. However, a recent study by Robin Dunbar of Oxford Universityshows that most of your online friends are in fact not your “real friends”. In fact, cyberbullying is more likely to come from a teen’s peers than from internet trolls or strangers. There are cases where aggressive “strangers” were exposed as peers operating under fake accounts/names.

Online communication platforms are efficient, but “the lack of face-to-face interactions makes it difficult to invest in a relationship for maintaining an essential level of ‘emotional intensity.’” This lack of empathy and selective sharing on social media garners a feeling of detachment, which empowers cyberbullying. October is also National Bullying Prevention Month. Cyber Security can be integral in bullying prevention. Both campaigns intersect, working towards the same goal: safety.

To learn more about how we keep kids safe online, visit our website:

Learn more about our Built-In Cyberbullying Detection

How We Keep 1M Students Safe Daily

We introduced Auditor after learning from our schools that students were using Gmail to express negative emotions such as bullying and self-harm. We made it free so that no school would have to make compromises when it comes to student safety.

Today, Auditor is thriving – scanning 3.5 million emails per day for 1 million students across the world.

‘Within six months of its launch Auditor has scanned more than 100 million emails and saved so many lives – That’s the power of AI and best part is that it’s all free! This is something that each every school should have as kids lives are at stake.’

‘Securly has been having its filtering product around for quite sometime but our core mission has always been ubiquitous safety for kids. Auditor is one such product that is so core to our mission, we decided to give it for free. Since its launch six months ago it has helped save countless number of lives.’ – Neeraj Thakar, VP India R&D Operations

Auditor also ensures that schools are CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act) compliant. CIPA requires schools to maintain “the safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms, and other forms of direct electronic communications”. However, traditional web-filters do not address this. Many schools reported using Google’s default compliance options to flag emails that contain a predefined set of keywords.

This method is undependable as:

  1. It Is prone to lots of False Positives (False Alarms) and False Negatives (Missed Alerts).
  2. Does not scale well in a large District where IT becomes the bottleneck in sorting through these flagged messages.

 

Instead, Auditor uses an automated sentiment inference approach. For example, consider a post that was flagged by our algorithm:

“slowly im realizing i don’t really have a purpose here say good bye cause Fryday it’s all over <3”

Though the allusion to suicide is clear, it does not contain the keywords usually associated with this kind of behavior. A keyword based approach would not have worked in detecting this.

 

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10 Reasons Why Securly is the Best Web Filter

parents, securly, web filter, schools

Between our unrivaled student safety features and dedicated team, here’s why schools and parents trust Securly to keep their kids safe online:

1. Free Chromebook Filtering

Set-up takes less than 5 minutes and it works seamlessly at home. In July, our Chromebook filtering became free for all schools everywhere. Since then, 700 districts (and counting) signed up and installed our self-serve Chromebook solution.

2. Free self-harm detection via Auditor

Our Auditor tool monitors Gmail for signs of self-harm and has kept over 1M students safer in its first 4 months. Our system uses Natural Language Processing & Artificial Intelligence algorithms to infer the sentiment behind e-mails. We notify parents and administrators in real-time at first sign of at-risk behavior.

3. Expanded Parent Settings

We upgraded our industry-first parent portal to give parents more control to set policies for school-owned devices at home. Parents can customize what your student can do and see on their devices, allow or deny access to specific sites and categories. This is one of our most popular features with parents.

4. Page Scanour blacklist that learns

PageScan is able to accurately block new content and meet the strict performance constraints of modern K-12 networks. Each day, PageScan adds 100s of sites to keep our database in tune with an ever-growing Internet. In fact, our blacklist recently upgraded to recognize images containing nudity, giving parents even less to worry about.

5. Azure AD

Can you ask for anything more than Google SSO and on-prem AD support? Now, you can. Azure AD support has been completed and deployed to many happy customers.

6. Product Stability

Despite our meteoric growth, support tickets are only on track to increase a mere 20%. Why? Because cloud-based filtering works and our product is more stable than ever.

7. Auto Scaling

Our DevOps infrastructure was upgraded to handle auto scaling. This means that as traffic fluctuates, servers turn on or go to sleep based on use  which mitigates chances of a server getting maxed out or even crashing. So, go ahead and throw all you can at us – we can handle it.

Advantages of cloud-based auto scaling:

  • Better fault tolerance: Auto scaling detects when an unhealthy instance, terminates it, and launches a replacement.
  • Improved availability: This ensures that our servers always have the capacity to handle the current traffic demands.
  • Blazing fast DNS resolution.
  • Automated load handling.
  • Highly scalable.
  • Higher service uptime.

 

8. Our Rockstar Team

The guy who works on our Squid proxy wrote the code for our SSL decryption engine over a weekend. Our recruiter hired 30 top-notch sales reps in just under one month. Industry veterans from Microsoft, Amazon, and Qualys are just a sample of the talent that Securly’s been attracting.

9. WiscNet

We secured our first state-wide contract when WiscNet (Wisconsin’s K-12  Research and Education Network) chose to partner with Securly. Along with other large district deals reaching over 2M students, Securly is on track to achieve triple digit sales growth 4 years in a row.

10. Breakneck Growth

Securly is bursting at the seams with 70+ employees across California, North Carolina, and India. Our Charlotte and India offices continue to expand and our HQ in Silicon Valley is having to move to an office 3x the size of our old space. It’s a great feeling.

 

For more information about online child safety, subscribe to our newsletter:


 

Announcing Securly 24 – It’s About Time!

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After much development and planning, Securly is proud to announce Securly 24 which…

Hold on, is this a rip-off of the TV show “24” starring Kiefer Sutherland that took viewers on time-sensitive adventures in a post-9/11 world for an impressive 8 seasons on Fox?

What? No, that’s not even close. We’re excited about Securly 24 because it brings back the one factor missing from technology-based solutions: the human factor. Securly 24 is important because there are times when urgency or context can be difficult for technology to determine, even an advanced artificial intelligence like ours. However, these determinations are absolutely necessary to distinguish active from passive warning signs. With Securly 24, trained professionals can discern what tech cannot.

Wait a sec, so Securly hired trained professional Kiefer Sutherland to work a 24-hour shift alongside a robot sidekick? Bro, that sounds awesome!

While we appreciate Mr. Sutherland and his body of work, he has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on Securly 24. The only thing that matters, and truly the primary motivation for rolling out 24, is making sure kids are safe…at all times.

Securly already monitors for such things as cyberbullying and self-harm across Filter and Auditor and administrators receive email alerts when such things are found. However, an email alert may not be seen until the next day. In some cases, that is already too late.

“The reality is that troublesome activities do happen, but not always between the hours of 9am and 5pm. Securly wants to minimize any chance of oversight by adding trained humans back into the equation,” says co-founder/CEO Vinay Mahadik.

Filter 24 automatically observes a student’s activity on the web, social media, and Youtube, while Auditor 24 scans Google emails. When an activity is flagged, a trained staff member will review the context in which it was used and, if necessary, the user’s history for insight into the bigger picture. Able to recognize the nuances of language and critically analyze a user’s history, a human can make determinations that technology may overlook. If flagged activities are cause for alarm, a Securly 24 staff member will alert a counselor in real-time via text or, if necessary, a phone call.

Sometimes the feeling of pain and isolation can be overwhelming at, say, 2AM on a Sunday. Fortunately, Securly is making sure that even when the rest of the world is asleep, the right folks are keeping an eye on the most vulnerable among us. Sometimes we just need a hero who is at the right place at the right time.

Hey, kinda like…

Yes, exactly like Kiefer Sutherland.

Interested? Join our priority list now! Click here.

 

Suicide Prevention: Behind Their Minds

securly-september-suicide-prevention

September means Back to School! There’s excitement in the air as families rush to the Target aisles to buy notebooks, pens, and materials for a promising year full of new experiences. As exciting as Back to School can be, kids can feel scared and overwhelmed. For many, it can feel too overwhelming. September also happens to be National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, an occasion to spotlight an issue that is growing among youths, and one that shows no signs of slowing down.

Youth suicide is a major cause of death during the crucial years when they should be building healthy interactions with their peers, constructing positive self-images, and forming important social bonds. According to 2015 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death in children aged 10-14.

Many suicides occur in isolation, while others are clustered in back-to-back succession around the same school or district. Many school authorities and administrations are baffled as to what is causing their students to kill themselves with alarming frequency. Could it be an increasingly rigorous academic schedule? Is it from bullying and social pressure to be attractive, cool, liked?

There are many reasons why this could be happening. Social pressure and lack of support can be contributors, as well as anxiety, depression, PTSD, panic disorders, and other psychological disorders which can impact suicidal intent. Kids struggling with anxiety disorders are more likely than mentally healthy people to have suicidal thoughts, make suicide attempts, or complete suicide. When it comes to depression, according to researchers, a specific occurrence of hopelessness in depressed people, rather than the depression as a whole, is a stronger indicator of suicidal feelings. That means that a depressed child will not necessarily be suicidal, but that a child feeling hopeless during their depression will be more likely to want to kill themselves.

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That being said, it is important to remember that not every child who is suicidal has a mental disorder, and not every person with a mental disorder is suicidal. Many factors contribute to why a kid may feel that way, and it’s important to pay attention to warning signs when they do. Kids who want to harm themselves or die typically will leave a number of clues that indicate their suicidal ideation or intention.

In our next blog post covering suicide, we’ll explore the warning signs that parents and teachers can look out for, and how to help your child when you find them.

If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741-741 to get connected with Crisis Text Line.

All Hail Auto Scaling !

You might think that auto scaling is the practice of meticulously painting, say, your Toyota Prius to look like an Atlantic salmon. It’s hard to believe, but…you would be wrong. Auto scaling refers to servers turning on or sleeping based on the amount of traffic at a given time. The new school year means increased traffic, which means you’d better be prepared.

Earlier scaling attempts were on par with early attempts at flight, a lot of trial and error. If it did work, it didn’t mitigate the chances of a server getting maxed out or even crashing. Cloud-based auto scaling solves a lot of these issues. To roll out cloud-based auto scaling, our engineers have enduring sleepless nights, fewer showers, and lots of caffeine. Now, it’s up and running.

securly-horizontal-scaling-gif (1).gifAs traffic fluctuates, servers turn on or go to sleep based on use. To help the servers get to sleep, they are read an excerpt from 50 Shades of Grey. Knocks ‘em right out.

Advantages of cloud-based auto scaling

  • Better fault tolerance: Auto scaling detects when an unhealthy instance, terminates it, and launches a replacement.
  • Improved availability: This ensures that our servers always have the capacity to handle the current traffic demands.
  • Blazing fast DNS resolution.
  • Automated load handling.
  • Highly scalable.
  • Higher service uptime.

IMG_20170912_144122.jpgWhat started as an overly complex game of tic-tac-toe between Siddhartha Desai, DevOps Engineer and Pei Deng, DevOps Manager became the genesis for our cloud-based auto scaling. Also, Sid won three games straight.

Securly’s goal is simple. Our engineers are taking care of the auto scaling so that admins don’t have to. Before a big day like Back to School, we would rather let them sleep.