education.govt.nz

Switching on safety for students learning at home

Issue: Volume 99, Number 6

Posted: 24 April 2020
Reference #: 1HA7BM

A new free safety filter for all students learning from home is already proving effective in blocking online threats and access to inappropriate websites.

Switch on safety

In homes all over New Zealand, children are switching on their devices and connecting to online learning programmes, as schools embrace distance learning in response to Covid-19.

But as students spend more time on their devices, they face more exposure to malicious and inappropriate web activity.

To help counter this, Network for Learning (N4L) has developed a safety filter to make the internet safer for all students learning from home that parents can set up on their children’s learning device. The Switch on Safety(external link) filter blocks access to a range of websites known to be unsafe and inappropriate for learning, including adult websites as well as those known to host unsafe software, such as malware and phishing scams. 

The filter was launched as schools resumed online classes for Term 2.

One school to embrace the initiative is Bream Bay College in Northland’s Ruakaka. Principal Wayne Buckland says in the early phases of Level 4, the school phoned every member of their school community to check how they were going with their connectivity and with their online learning, and whether or not they had applied the Switch on Safety filter.

“We were acutely aware of the phishing scams, the viruses, the malware. It was more the threats, the things coming in and doing things to the students’ devices than them going to places that they shouldn’t.”

“We see the safety filter being really helpful for our students and parents. It will help relieve some of the anxiety from our parent community who are concerned about the safety of their children online at a time when there are all sorts of scams and phishing going on.”

N4L reports that within the first week of the filter being available, 6,500 parents applied it to their child’s devices, and in doing so they’ve stopped more than 94,000 online threats and 274,000 harmful websites from getting through.

“It just gives you an indication of the level of malicious stuff going on online at the moment,” says Wayne.

Parent feedback so far has been that it was ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’ to apply the filter, says Wayne.

He estimates around three quarters of their parents have so far implemented the filter on their students’ devices.

Good digital citizenship is important too, emphasises N4L chief executive Larrie Moore.

“By switching on our safety filter, we give children a valuable layer of protection to keep them safer online.”

However, technology is not a silver bullet, and must be combined with good digital citizenship advice provided by organisations like Netsafe to keep children safe online, he says.

The N4L safety filter is part of a new Switch on Safety(external link) initiative to provide safer connectivity for learning while students are away from school. The initiative is led by N4L with support from Netsafe and the Ministry of Education. 

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 3:52 pm, 24 April 2020

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