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Schools have ‘duty of care’ to track students online.

Schools have ‘duty of care’ to track students online.

Schools are having a difficult time with managing students in this world of massive technological change. Students pick up things very quickly via their tech savvy cohort. This causes a lot of issues with schools trying to keep up with cyberbullying and many other issues such as depression, sexting, self-harm, suicide and list goes on. Most attempts at a solution do not solve the problem with finding out what is going on and being able to respond to issues based on their severity. They are cumbersome and cause the school councilors and teachers a lot of time in identifying issues in a timely manner.  This is where a service such as eSafe Global comes in with their team of qualified councilors, psychologists, forensics specialists, etc.

Responses from the eSafe service back to the school are escalated based on the severity of the events.  Something critical is responded to instantly.

Earlier this month Mark Donkersley who is the MD of eSafe was asked to provide a briefing to the NSW Parliament on what is going on inside schools. He does this on a regular basis to both houses of Parliament in the UK as he is in a unique position to be able provide this overview.

eSafe Global is now providing a service to about 1 million students and schools throughout the UK, UAE, Singapore, Malaysia and has been used in schools in Australia since 2011.

As a result of Mark’s briefing ‘The Educator Online’ wrote up the following story.

This article is from their web site- https://www.theeducatoronline.com/au

The article is by Brett Henebery 16 Feb 2018

On Thursday, principals and privacy advocates responded to reports about Australian schools gearing up to trial student monitoring software that some called ‘Big Brother’ technology.

The UK Government sees that monitoring students’ online activity is seen as an important part of safeguarding young people and promoting student welfare in the context of early intervention.

In England and Wales, 50% of all mental health conditions are established by the age of 14, and 75% by the age of 24.

While the purpose of the UK-based eSafe Global monitoring system is to identify online risks such as bullying, teen depression and even extremism, there are concerns in Australia that it may have ramifications for students’ online privacy.

However, eSafe’s managing director, Mark Donkersley, said the value of identifying any actual or potential harm early before it turns into something more serious will be just as well understood and acceptable to Australian parents as it is to those in the UK.

“If you believe that there is a duty of care to prevent or mitigate harms, the ‘self-insurance’ option [give the students the tools and education and let them get on with it] is from experience in the UK over the past 5 years an inadequate prescription,” Donkersley told The Educator.

“The issues and conditions affecting young people are not always visible to school staff, parents and their student peers.”

Donkersley pointed out that these issues may be “obscured or subtle”.

“You need a fall back for the inevitable car crashes that will happen no matter how well trained or road-savvy the driver is,” Donkersley said.

“eSafe is a service which uses behaviour specialists to identify the early warning markers of safeguarding risk which are proven to be evident in the digital environments which schools and colleges make available to student users.”

Donkersley said the program is “neither a covert nor a technology solution” and it is taken up with the full knowledge of students, parents and school management teams.

“Schools in NSW are looking to conduct controlled trials of the eSafe Service and just as with the process associated with the introduction of a new drug; the schools, the students and the parents will be involved in properly evaluating the outcome based on the statistical evidence of the safeguarding issues identified,” he said.

“If there is to be a realistic and effective focus on the welfare and well-being of the next generation of Australians it would be a dereliction of that duty of care not to undertake this sort of monitoring experiment in the first place or allow it to be derailed by ill-informed accusations of ‘big brother’ and mistrust.”

eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, said that while such monitoring technology can play a helpful role in promoting students’ online safety and well-being, they should be viewed as “one tool within a multi-faceted approach to online safety.”

“It’s important that care is taken to ensure there is not an over-reliance on technological tools, but that schools, parents and communities have the best possible programs and practices in place to encourage education and prevention strategies addressing potential online harms,” Grant told The Educator.

“It is crucial that young people learn essential life skills such as resilience, respect, responsibility and critical reasoning in order to thrive both online and offline.”

Grant added that it is incumbent upon schools to ensure due diligence is undertaken as to the relevant privacy and other legal considerations when implementing technological tools that involve monitoring students.