How To Help Protect Students From Human Trafficking, Self-Harm, Cyberbullying, and Other Safety Risks

District technology & safety teams can use information in their Google Workspace and/or Microsoft 365 apps to help protect students

Toni McPherson, Director of Information Systems and Services at Beaumont ISD, joined us to share how her team helps impact student safety both online and in the classroom. During our discussion, she shared a very scary story:

“I had an incident where one of our nine-year-olds was being groomed by a local sex trafficking ring in an anonymous chat room–using one of our Chromebooks” McPherson recalls. “I have to be honest, I didn’t know what an anonymous chat room was so when it came to my attention. I had to Google and find out what an anonymous chat room was, and then find all the extensions that existed so I could block everything on my domain.”

McPherson’s main recommendation to technology leaders is to be transparent about the student monitoring that they are doing with all their stakeholders. She also stresses the importance of using monitoring from a place of keeping kids safe versus punishing them.

“Don’t be afraid to have difficult conversations with everyone. Your students, your staff, your parents, and your community. In our district we’re not shy about the monitoring tools that we have in place to safeguard our students, we let our students know.”

Like many K-12 technology leaders, McPherson doesn’t like the idea of making tools and technology freely available to students without backing it up with the proper tools and monitoring to make sure that students are safe online. That is why she uses ManagedMethods, along with other tools, to monitor student behavior as well as potential data security risks, such as personally identifiable information (PII) being improperly shared by staff members.

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As we get closer to Mental Health Awareness Month (May), we wanted to highlight how ManagedMethods can help your district monitor for a variety of student safety risks that might pop up in your Google Workspace apps, including Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Chat.

“Once you’re equipped with tools like ManagedMethods, it makes people start to become proactive instead of reactive,” says McPherson. “We’ve started to see positive change where students are starting to self-report on some of their issues because they can do it more anonymously. They’re making notes in their Google Drive as a cry for help because they know that there is someone on the other end to receive it. We’re seeing students self-report in this way to reach out and say, for example, ‘There’s something going on at my house and I need help.'”

How To Investigate Student Safety Risks in Your District’s Google Workspace Apps With ManagedMethods

1. Student Safety Risks & Policies

ManagedMethods provides out-of-the-box risks that you can start using immediately to audit the activity that is currently happening in your Google Workspace environment. When using ManagedMethods, we usually recommend a “look but don’t touch” approach at first. This means that you (and/or the person that has been designated to respond to student safety risks) will receive automated alerts when a risk is detected, but the ManagedMethods platform won’t take any automated action on those risks.

Once your team has a handle on some of the common risks you’re seeing, and you’ve developed a plan of action with your stakeholders, you can set up policies in the platform to start automating actions that need to be taken when a risk is flagged. ManagedMethods provides out-of-the-box policies that you can use to build these.

“We’re able to balance our alerts with others in the district,” McPherson shared. “With ManagedMethods, you can segment the alerts based on the type and level, and then decide who you want to get the alerts and how you want them to get them. For self-harm, cyberbullying, and things of that nature, that can go to the campus level or to counselors, for example.”

With both risks and policies, you can use our out-of-the-box templates, edit the templates, and/or customize them from scratch for your needs!

2. Machine Learning (ML), Keyword, and Regular Expression (Regex) Risks

ManagedMethods provides perhaps the most K-12 specific ML model for self-harm, suicide, and a variety of toxic online behaviors, such as bullying, threats of violence, and discrimination/identity attacks. That is because our model has been trained, and is continuously being refined, almost entirely by content specific to the K-12 market.

Customers can also use traditional keyword and regex set-ups if they need to broaden the student safety risks they are monitoring for and/or collect additional context.

ManagedMethods identifies student safety risks in a variety of file types, including images, Docs, Slides, Sheets, Gmail, and Chat.

3. In-Depth Context

Speaking of context, ManagedMethods provides the most in-depth incident information in a more streamlined way than any other platform on the market. Using ManagedMethods, you can quickly determine who created a file, who it was shared with, who contributed to the file (for example, when students are using a Google Doc or Slides file as a chat room), and so much more.

In many cases, we have some customers that use other tools, such as Gaggle or Securly, to make sure they’re covering all their risk alert bases, but then use solely use ManagedMethods to investigate the specifics of the incident.

Start With A Free Student Safety Risks Audit

“If you think that these things aren’t happening in your district, it’s because you don’t know about them. These things do occur. They happen in my district. It’s unfortunate, but we do what we can to try to get ahead of them or mitigate them when they do happen,” says McPherson. “Reach out to the folks at ManagedMethods. They’re a great lot of people and their platform will do an analysis to let you know what’s occurring in your district. The data will speak for itself.”

When you sign up for a 30-day free trial, you’ll get an audit of the student safety risks, as well as the data security and phishing risks, that exist in your district’s Google Workspace and/or Microsoft environment. Then, you can start working on making your online learning spaces more safe and secure for your community.

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