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Stella Maris College deploys social network protection for senior students

Sydney Catholic girls' school, Stella Maris College, has reduced the risk of Internet threats posed by social networking sites by deploying a Web security gateway."

Speaking to Computerworld Australia, the college's IT manager Chris Maker said the school began working with Websense two years ago to avoid potentially exposing students to malware or unsuitable content through their use of popular social networks like Facebook.

Maker said the security gateway is essential as some teachers and the senior year co-ordinator communicate messages to Year 10, 11 and 12 students using Facebook.

The college has found that getting students to read emails is not overly effective anymore as teenage girls prefer to use social networking to communicate with fellow students and teachers.

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"We can send an email out and we might get only 20 to 30 per cent of the students reading it," he said. "However, on mediums that they are comfortable with like Facebook they pick up the message."

Maker added that only senior students have access to social networking sites as part of the school's duty of care policy to protect Year 7 through to 9 students. These younger students are blocked from using YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

However, the college's IT department will unblock YouTube during elective music classes when these junior students need to share music instructional videos.

According to Maker, the college has had "zero issues" with malware, dirty data and Internet threats since the deployment.

Students to bring their own devices to school

The school's IT department is also modifying its laptop program so that students can choose to bring Macintosh or Windows-based laptops to school rather than use a preferred laptop or operating system.

"Early indications [from students] indicate that there is going to be a strong push towards Macs at the moment," Maker said.

He estimates that the college may have 300 to 500 Macs in use during 2013 from the first day of term. The college has 1,100 students.

These laptops will be supported by the Websense offering when the students log on to the college network.

"The system will know who that student is and be able to apply the [security] policies to their particular year group so they get the right level of Internet access," he said.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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