This raises a number of privacy concerns, of course, but the software doesn’t keep records of ‘acceptable’ PC use - it only moves into action when a violation takes place. It then compiles records of inappropriate behaviour, including screenshots.
"Rather than blocking sites, our product's approach is to monitor usage," says Forensic Software sales director Marie Bailey. "This means you can educate pupils about why they shouldn’t do what they've done. A monitoring approach helps you work out why students are doing what they are doing - perhaps some violations come from a time when a new teacher is taking a lesson, which helps to identify a training need."
Another vendor, Securus Software, offers the Securus monitoring system. Like Policy Central, Securus watches for inappropriate words and phrases, both using the internet and working offline in an application such as Word. This system captures screenshots of every violation, along with details of the user, workstation, time, date and nature of the incident. Evidence is stored on a proprietary server, in order to keep it pristine.
Sally-Ann Griffiths explains: "In the old days it was about Web 1.0 technology, controlling where children go. Today's children are digital natives and use the web for much more complex things: social networks or online games. Blocking and filtering wraps them in a bubble, but they can still find what they need using a mate’s PC."
Unlike blocking solutions, monitoring lets concerned adults identify and react to inappropriate behaviour, offering a chance to explain why such abuse is unacceptable. It also offers an early-warning system.
"In one incident, a teacher suspected a pupil was being bullied though the child had said nothing. Monitoring proved bullying was taking place, when and where it occurred and who had been doing it," Griffiths says.
Technology plays its part in dealing with the symptoms, Fuller stresses, but a change in attitudes to bullying is also overdue. Parents must also seize responsibility to tackle inappropriate uses of technology.
"We must create a culture in which bullying is recognised as the problem it is," he says. "Teachers must teach children how to protect themselves online, children must understand the etiquette of behaviour and parents must understand the way their children use IT."
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