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

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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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