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Guest blog: The importance of knowing what your students are talking about

Al Kingsley, Managing Director NetSupport

NetSupport joined IWF in January of this year. Al Kingsley blogs for us about the importance of knowing what students are talking about, and how using the IWF Keywords List helps them in their safeguarding crusade.

NetSupport became an IWF member in January 2016. Since that time, we’ve learned much about the scope of its work and how it tackles the immense task of removing child sexual abuse content from the internet. As a developer of education software solutions, NetSupport shares the IWF’s goal of safeguarding young people as they use the internet, so it made perfect sense for us to collaborate and integrate the IWF’s keyword list into the Keyword and Phrase Monitoring component of our dedicated safeguarding tool for schools.

How does NetSupport use IWF’s Keywords List?

The safeguarding module within IT Asset Management solution, NetSupport DNA, includes a keyword monitoring tool covering a wide spectrum of safeguarding topics such as; self-harm, radicalisation, drugs and more. IWF’s Keywords list integrates with this database on a monthly basis, enabling the feature to monitor and alert schools to child sexual abuse content. This not only makes the internet a safer place but also means that schools using our solution can get a deeper understanding of what their students are talking about.

Why is a Keywords list important for schools?

Young people have their own language, so it’s important to recognise what key topics are being discussed across each year group at your school. Using a keyword monitoring tool, you can get an instant picture of which topics are the most common and who is talking about them. To accurately report this, the keyword database you use must be comprehensive and up-to-date across all safeguarding topics, which is what we achieved in cooperation with the IWF. We have also spent time in local schools with groups of Year 7-13 students capturing new terms, themes and regional keywords to ensure we are ahead of the curve. Additionally, it’s really worth investing the time to enter keywords you spot being used in your school into the database. After all, the results it produces is only as good as the data it has within it. And to get the most benefit from DNA’s Keyword and Phrase Monitoring feature, schools can – and probably should – swap their own keyword lists with other schools; thereby allowing each one to monitor students’ input more effectively. 

Once you are equipped with an insight into what topics are trending at your school, you can use this information as a launching point for staff training, assemblies or group discussions to address issues head-on. With some issues, students may want to approach a trusted member of staff to discuss their problem. Unfortunately, preferred teachers and/or administrators can’t always be available, but, in a school of hundreds or thousands of students, technology can lend a helping hand. Using a ‘report a concern’ tool, students can report their problem to a trusted member of staff, allowing the school to start an open conversation with the student and provide the appropriate support and advice. Providing this option to students not only facilitates an ‘open door’ policy, but also helps empower them to seek support.

Safeguarding students, understanding them and appropriately addressing concerns is nothing new but continues to be a losing battle. But, by applying our technology, we’re proud to be making a tough job easier for schools, and working with the IWF has helped us achieve this.

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