Why Choose Cloud Based Web Filtering?

cloud based web filtering, online child safety

Why Choose Cloud Based Web Filtering?

Web filtering is most widely known within the context of the Children’s Internet Protection Act of 2000 as a means of protecting students from harmful, explicit content found on the internet. However, web filters – especially those that are Cloud basedare capable of much more, in both home and school environments.  

PRODUCTIVITY

From a survey we conducted, about 50% of students reported being focused only half the time they spent studying or working on school assignments due to online distractions.  Cloud based web filtering services allow the admin to establish time restrictions on certain sites (social media, gaming, entertainment, etc.), impelling students to get back on track.

1:1

More than half of the US K-12 population will be involved in 1:1 computing programs by the end of this year, according to Education Week’s Market Brief.  1:1 refers to the practice of each student having their own device (usually a Chromebook or tablet) on loan from the school during the academic year.  Students are able to use these devices in class and at home; thus, schools are now seeking for 1:1 chromebook web filter solutions.  Hardware appliances previously limited web filtering to school grounds.   However, Cloud based web filtering for schools  ensures that students will be protected from harmful content wherever they are.

CYBERBULLYING

The term “cyberbullying” covers any sort of harassment via online communication.  Cyberbullying usually occurs on social media sites and public forums.  Blocking social media sites entirely may be too restrictive (especially for pre-teens) or unrealistic, as many schools use social media to communicate alerts to their students.  Cloud based web filtering provides a balanced solution via “Bullying and Self-Harm Detection”.  This technology analyzes student social media posts and alerts admins and/or school officials at any indication of cyberbullying, self-harm, or grief.  This approach addresses cyberbullying detection and works to prevent cyberbullying’s often fatal consequences.

SIMPLICITY

Until recently, web filtering solutions relied mostly on hardware appliance and routers.  These appliances are often complicated to set-up and require constant maintenance by IT admins.  The cost of mandatory updates and extra features can add up to an exorbitant amount.   Instead, cloud based web-filtering allows for easy, immediate set-up through a friendly user-interface.  It is also a simple way for parents to utilize parental control features.

MONITOR ONLINE BEHAVIOR

Lastly, cloud based web filtering allows parents and IT admins to track sites kids are visiting and how often.  While web restrictions vary from school to school and household to household, it’s important to be aware of your child’s web activity to promote online safety!

 

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Taking a Safe Approach to Online Activity

TomSecurly1

By Tom Walker

SafeSearch, parental controls, safe image search, home internet security, kids safe search

A piece of advice I always give people in regard to their online activity is to be mindful of the sites they visit. This is especially true in the K-12 space, where we need to be careful of the content that our students can access. Here are some tools and suggestions to stay safe while living online.

1) Safe Searching

Google SafeSearch

Google SafeSearch is a filter built within Google that can be turned on or off at a user’s discretion. As Google says, “The SafeSearch filter isn’t 100% accurate, but it helps you avoid most adult content.” At our school district, the SafeSearch filter is turned on by default for the students and cannot be turned off. At home, if you are worried about what videos or images may appear while you or your children browse, SafeSearch can be helpful at avoiding objectionable material. The SafeSearch setting can also be locked if you have children that use your computer at home.

Bing SafeSearch

Microsoft’s Bing also offers a SafeSearch setting. The SafeSearch within Bing can also be turned on and off, but has a moderate setting as well. When in strict mode, Bing will filter adult oriented text, images, and videos from the searches. In moderate mode, Bing will filter adult oriented images and videos, but does not filter any text. The third setting turns SafeSearch off. Much like Google, Bing states that their SafeSearch, “won’t catch everything.”  However, Bing does include a link to a form that can be filled out that sends a support ticket to Microsoft regarding objectionable content that comes through the filter.

Yahoo SafeSearch

Yahoo also offers a SafeSearch filter, much like Google and Bing. Yahoo makes a similar statement, “While SafeSearch won’t catch everything, most adult content won’t show up in your search results.” The Yahoo SafeSearch also offers strict, moderate, and off settings as well. Like Google, the Yahoo SafeSearch can also be locked.

 

2) Safe Browsing

Google offers a service called Google Safe Browsing which is provided in the Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari browsers. This service contains a list of URLs that are known phishing or malware websites. The nice thing is that Google Safe Browsing is built-in protection. When a user comes across a known malicious website using one of those browsers, a notification is displayed warning the user that the website may contain malware.

Microsoft offers a similar built-in service called SmartScreen, which was introduced with Internet Explorer 8. It is still a key component of the new Microsoft Edge browser that comes with the recently released Windows 10.

 

3) Safe Clicking


In my experience as an IT director, some of the worst issues tend to come from those who click questionable links while surfing the web. Doing so not only opens up the potential for viruses, but your private information can be subject to being stolen. It sounds menial, but pay attention to what you click and what you open. This is especially important now that ransomware attacks have increased in the last couple of years. This is a good conversation to have with your students and children as well. Don’t be — click happy!

 

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Emerging Trends in EdTech

The rise of ‘1:1’

In recent years, schools around the globe have been increasingly adopting 1:1 initiatives, programs in which each student is issued a personal device to facilitate learning.

While there are a number of different devices being used in the classroom, all with their own merits, the clear leaders up until now have been Google’s Chromebook and Apple’s iPad. Each of these devices consists of its own avid supporters, which has led to countless ‘iPad vs Chromebook‘ debates over the last few years.

Although iPads were initially the popular choice for many schools, Chromebooks surpassed iPads as the market leader in late 2014.

A recent Gartner study projects that worldwide Chromebook sales are expected to reach 7.3 million units by the end of 2015, with the education sector accounting for 72 percent, 69 percent, and 60 percent of sales in EMEA, Asia/Pacific, and the U.S., respectively. Regardless of the school’s device of choice, it seems almost a given now that it will in some capacity use Google Apps for Education, a cloud-based suite of Google tools such as GMail, Calendar, Drive, and Classroom that are available for free to schools.

Common Core State Standards Initiative

A big catalyst for the rapid growth of 1:1 programs has been the Common Core State Standards, an initiative adopted by 48 US states that provides over $10B of funding to help schools teach students important 21st century skills.

As described in the ‘Recommended Digital Literacy & Technology Skills‘ handbook for the state of California, students must be able to ‘Use online tools (e.g., e-mail, online discussion forums, blogs, and wikis) to gather and share information collaboratively with other students, if the district allows it.’ The initiative has given rise to the number of student-produced blogs, YouTube videos, Wikipedia articles, and numerous other mediums by which students use online content to enhance their learning experience.

It is through this focus on technological innovation that the concepts of blended learning and the flipped classroom have been able to flourish. Blended learning provides a balance between traditional classroom instruction and online learning. Often considered a type of blended learning, the flipped classroom challenges the traditional pedagogical model by encouraging students to learn new content at home and use classroom time for collaborative, hands-on activities. Perhaps one of the best known examples of this practice is witnessed in schools that have adopted Khan Academy’s math curriculum.

Increased device use in homes

The proliferation of devices is not unique to schools. Whereas most American families owned just a single computer throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, most US households now contain 5 or more mobile devices. Moreover, it is increasingly common for students in 1:1 programs to take their school devices home with them throughout the school year or even during the summer break, further contributing to abundance of technology within the walls of their home.

Challenges

There’s a significant shift in the challenges that educators and parents face with kids using the Internet. The risk of exposure to adult websites is now not the main worry. Instead, the focus is now on the 21st century threats of social media and social networking’ specifically, schools are perplexed by cyber-bullying and parents are concerned by lost productivity and unsafe user-generated content on otherwise safe sites.

Sitting behind a computer screen, adolescents often have no filter on what they say to and about their peers. This has led to increased prevalence of depression, self-harm, or even suicide due to posts made on Ask.fm or Facebook like social networking sites. Parents find their kids from a very early age spending hours of time watching related videos on YouTube wasting time and potentially watching unsafe content along the way.

Student Data and Privacy

With the abundance of data being generated by the scores of K-12 service providers, these types of questions are becoming easier to answer. EdTech companies like Bright Bytes have been successfully using school data to measure the impact on student outcomes and are helping schools make better choices about where to invest their technology dollars. Understanding that students consume more data on mobile than any other medium, Remind 101 has been able to take school data and deliver it an easy way (e.g., text messages, SMS alerts, and others.) to help parents, students, and teachers to stay connected.

Because student data is being produced at a faster rate than ever before, it becomes imperative to have safeguards in place which protect students and families from identify theft and other online security risks. The first step in realizing this goal is to hold the EdTech companies themselves accountable for using their data in a safe and responsible manner. To that end, The Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) and The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) formed the Student Privacy Pledge, an initiative to ‘safeguard student privacy regarding the collection, maintenance, and use of student personal information.’ As of this article, 157 K-12 service providers have signed the official pledge, which was given recognition by President Obama and the White House in late 2014.

This article was published in Silicon India Magazine. To read the original article, please click here.


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National Bullying Prevention Month – Securly Kickstarter Project

October 1st marks the beginning of National Bullying Prevention Month in the US. We are once again pleased to support several anti-bullying initiatives (e.g., NCSAM and The Tyler Clementi Foundation’s new Day One campaign) during this month. To start things off, we take a look back at the Kickstarter project we launched one year ago to raise funding and awareness for our technology to detect cyberbullying and self-harm. Thanks to all the parents and school IT admins who have helped – and continue to help – support our efforts to improve the online safety for the K-12 students we serve.

Video Transcript

Narrator: Bullying has always been a serious issue in schools, often leading to a negative impact on academic achievement and mental health, including risk of depression or even suicide. And now, with increased use of social networking, it’s no longer happening on playground and in hallways, but rather behind the screens of student devices. In other words, teachers and parents can no longer see bullying in action. 21st century technology not only creates this problem, but is also capable of solving it.

Securly is a Silicon Valley based educational technology company that is dedicated to online child safety and learning analytics. We were founded by enterprise security veterans and now in honor of National Bullying Prevention Month, we are partnering with an expert in pattern recognition to develop a technology that alerts parents and school administrators about incidents of bullying and other harmful behavior.

Yi Zhang: “For many kids, they don’t tell their parents when bad things happen to them. Using artificial intelligence techniques, we hope to solve this problem. I have been working with Securly on this problem as their advisor. Hopefully we can help kids together.”

Karl Rivers: “On an almost weekly basis, we have students coming in with mainly smaller issues and sending inappropriate messages to each other though social networks, all the way up to some more significant issues with e-safety.”

Mark Nelson: “I think we have a good handle and training on what goes on what goes on within the halls, but I don’t know that we’ve spent a lot of time looking into what happens away from school.”

Maya M: “I was personally bullied, through social media, through texting. I think that a lot of people – almost everybody – has experienced that, not what I’ve experienced, but their own individual situations at some point in their life just without realizing it because it’s so frequent. But with me, it was very impactful in my life just because it came from my best friend. And that was not a pleasant experience at all.

People, if they see someone shoving a kid into a locker in a hallway, they’re going to say something, obviously. Whereas, if you comment something very harsh online, or on a picture, people are going to actually stand up for the bully themselves. So it’s hard to really realize that you’re the one that’s committing that act.”

Colleen M (mother): “Had I not been able to get access to her phone, which is usually glued to her side, I wouldn’t have known [about the bullying]. And it was to the point where there could have been potential legal action against some of the things that this girl was saying, and going out to how many people?”

Narrator: Securly already serves hundreds of thousands of students, and provides administrators and parents with insights into online student activity. We’ve developed a prototype for the industry’s first monitoring engine capable of capturing sentiments and emotions behind posts on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and searches performed on sites like Google and Bing. Our sentiment analysis engine uses natural language processing to detect the keyword patterns in a message. This allows us to flag any suspicious activity buried within millions of social posts and online searches. These powerful algorithms enable us to distinguish the casual sentiment in “I hate this sweater” from the strong negative sentiment in “Everyone at school hates me.” We then classify these suspicious activities into behavioral categories such as bullying, grief, and violence. We also make it easy to get a complete trail of your child’s activity surrounding a specific post or tweet.

We are deeply committed to our new sentiment analysis offering. Kickstarters will be the first to get access to technology, along with some other great rewards listed on our Kickstarter page. Thank you for your support.

Securly launches the first cloud-based home internet security solution for parents to manage kids’ screen time

Securly now offers the first cloud-based home internet security solution that allows parents to manage screen time via safe versions of Google, YouTube, Wikipedia, and more.

Parents who sign up can enable safe Google, YouTube, Wikipedia, and custom policies for any device and any user on their home network, with a simple 5-minute setup and a dashboard summary of all activity.

Securly, Inc. – the world’s leading cloud-based provider of Internet Security for K-12 schools – today announced the general availability of its “Securly for Parents” product for the Home Internet Security market.

This offering includes the following benefits:

  • Single-point install (cloud-based)
  • Covers all users/devices in the home
  • Dashboard summary of activity by user
  • Weekly reports
  • High-urgency alerts

Securly pioneered cloud-based Internet Security for K-12 schools back in 2013. A year later, it introduced the patent-pending Securly for Parents product to allow parents to co-manage home policies for their children’s school-owned devices. With this release, Securly now extends the same technology to families for use in a typical home network environment.

Securly’s product is the first cloud-based home internet security solution to help parents manage their kids’ screen time on all devices throughout the home, with setup consisting of a simple 5-minute configuration on the home router. This offering includes the ability for parents to enable safe search and safe image search on Google, Bing, and Yahoo, and kid-friendly versions of sites like YouTube and Wikipedia. Parents will also be emailed a weekly summary of their children’s activity.

To get started, parents can sign up at:

http://www.securly.com/parents.html

Early users of Securly for Parents are excited about the new offering. Said Robert Duncan of Charleston, South Carolina, “I can’t tell you how much I greatly appreciate this service with teenage boys in the house. It really does a great job protecting them from all of the temptation out there. You also have great customer service! Thank you.”

In 2012, Securly was started out of a Silicon Valley garage with the vision of building an easy-to-deploy service that provided ubiquitous online safety to kids while keeping parents in the loop on how their kids’ devices were being used. Although version 1.0 of Securly’s product was built for parents, the startup quickly realized how difficult it was to compete in the Home Internet Security market – going up against established names like McAfee – without a certain minimum threshold of brand trust.

As Securly thought about ways to gain adoption without having to compromise its vision, it did find one market that shared the goal of online child safety while remaining completely open to trying a product that none had heard of before. Said Securly co-founder Bharath Madhusudan, “K-12 schools in the US proved to be full of early adopters who were more than happy to try, and even buy, the only cloud-based player in town. With the help of our friends and well-wishers, we believe that we are well on our way to building a best-of-breed web filter for K-12 schools. In just two years, we have grown from zero to over a thousand schools.” With its K-12 school product now in a mature state, Securly is bringing the same technology to the home market to help parents understand how kids are using devices like Chromebooks and iPads. This move is in line with previous innovations from Securly. Two years ago, it developed the concept of “teacher whitelisting”, which gives classroom teachers the ability to approve a blocked website needed for instruction. Now, with patent-pending parental integration, Securly gives parents an increased sense of ownership in their child’s education by allowing them to co-manage home internet policies on school devices. This technology also delivers weekly reports that summarize how all devices – personal and school – are being used, along with high-urgency alerts for critical incidents like cyber-bullying and self-harm.

As a startup, Securly was helped by the fact that the two markets it serves – schools and parents – were not just highly synergistic, but also shared significant portions of the code base. This allowed its engineers to rapidly build features for its school customers and have those exact same features benefit parents in the same software release. In other words, Securly’s renewed commitment to building a best-of-breed home product does not in any way cannibalize the trajectory of its K-12 offering. The release of Securly for Parents is a huge step forward for the company on several fronts – it returns to its original vision of being able to keep parents in the loop on how their kids are utilizing their screen time. This time, however, it is backed by the brand trust that comes from serving hundreds of thousands of students around the globe. Said Securly for Parents team lead Awais Ahsan, “Imagine being able to see what websites your kids are spending the most amount of time on across all of your home devices and using that information to guide their online behavior. That is precisely what Securly for Parents will deliver to its users.”

About Securly:
Securly is the world’s leading provider of cloud based security for K-12 schools. The founding team has a combined 20+ years of experience in network security. The company is a venture backed startup in Silicon Valley and serves thousands of schools in North America, Europe and the Asia Pacific region.

This press release was originally published on PRWeb. To read the original release, please click here.