Saasyan Blog

Self-Harm in Australian Schools

Self-harm is a compulsive behavior exhibited by a wide range of age, gender, socioeconomic and racial demographics. However, it remains most prevalent amongst adolescents, in particular teenaged girls. Let’s look at some numbers around the world:

  • In the US, the rate of girls aged 10 to 14 arriving in American emergency rooms with self-inflicted injuries has increased by 19% per year since 2009. The rate of increase for boys is 1%.
  • In the UK, the rate of increase is much higher, with a 68% rise in rates of self-harm among girls aged 13 to 16 since 2011. It must however be noted that the UK study included GP visiting rooms, whereas the US study only covered emergency room admissions, which may account for the high difference.
  • In Australia, the same trends are apparent. The Australian Health Ministry released a report showing that the number of young Australians seeking help for suicide and self-harm has doubled from 2000 to 2015. Furthermore, the survey also alarmingly found as many as one in 10 teenagers (about 186,000 Australian youth) had engaged in some form of self-harm in their life, including a staggering quarter of Australian teenage girls aged 16-17.

Unlike the US and NHS studies, the Australian report did not rely on GP or emergency room visits for data. Arguably this study then reveals the clearest picture of what some commentators are referring to as a “crisis”. Studies such as those of the UK and US are only taking a shallow reading of the actual instances of self-harm, since they are only using data from medical centers.

We can conclude that incidents of self-harm are rising. With that rise comes a correlated risk of increased suicide and suicide attempts. While causality is fluid in these cases, diagnoses of anxiety and eating disorders are also highly likely to rise in parallel with incidents of self-harm. In fact, the University of Columbia recently concluded that the risk of suicide increases sharply in the months after an incident of self-harm.

 

Definition

Practitioners refer to NSSI (Non-suicidal self-injury), a term also used by Australian academics, but the term “deliberate self-harm” (DSH) is also frequently used. For the purposes of remaining colloquial, let us adhere to the term “self-harm” here. The term in fact defines a wide array of physical manifestations. It must be noted that causally psychological and emotional factors preempt physical self-harm, and could be defined as a form of mental self-harm – low self-esteem, negative self-talk and self-denial.  Typically, although not uniformly, the self-harm occurs in private, in a controlled or ritualistic manner. According to the Mayo Clinic typical acts of self-harm include:

  • Cutting (cuts or severe scratches with a sharp object)
  • Scratching
  • Burning (with lit matches, cigarettes or hot, sharp objects like knives)
  • Carving words or symbols on the skin
  • Hitting or punching
  • Piercing the skin with sharp objects
  • Pulling out hair
  • Persistently picking at or interfering with wound healing

Mental Health America, estimates that the most common forms of self-harm are:

  • Skin cutting (70-90%),
  • Head banging or hitting (21%-44%), and
  • Burning (15%-35%).

People who self-harm may use more than one method to harm themselves. Less-typical acts of self-harm include:

  • Self-poisoning
  • Cyber self-harm
  • Binge drinking
  • Self-infection
  • Inserting objects into body openings
  • Purposefully breaking bones

 

The Causes. The Consequences

Studies have found that behind the behavior of self-harm lies a consistent distal risk factor (i.e. an underlying vulnerability for a condition) that points to familial environments playing a disproportionally large role in increasing the risk of self-harm. The diagram below, from the same study, illustrates this relationship.

Further to the familial environment or childhood abuse, are further underlying causes related to mental health. Self-harmers describe the act as a relief from negative feelings, a way of externalizing internal or emotional pain, and cathartic – specifically when watching the injuries heal. Self-harm is seen by mental health practitioners and psychologists as a way for individual’s to control their bodies, when they don’t feel like they can control anything else – a coping mechanism. Self-harm induces a positive feeling after a challenging emotional incident, particular interpersonal conflicts. Emotionally, self-harmers typically have low self-esteem, difficulties expressing their feelings, difficulties coping with stress or “adult” responsibilities.

Adolescence is generally a trying time for anyone. Teenagers are discovering an identity outside of their families – a process often expressed in outright rebellion, hormonal fluxes lead to extremes of emotion, and an entire world of new social realities is opening up to them, alongside an increasingly acute sense of self-awareness, within that sometimes unsympathetic social landscape. Having said all of that self-harm is certainly not, and should never be deemed “normal attention seeking”. Unequivocally self-harm is a consequence of a mental health issue, and in many cases indicates an underlying psychiatric disorder such as personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder (manic depression), major depression; anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder as well as psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Even when self-harm does not indicate these medical conditions, it nonetheless indicates extreme stress, inability to cope and most certainly a “cry for help”.

 

A Teachers Role

A 2017 study by Australian Institute of Family Studies recorded high percentages of self-harm amongst the 3, 318 teenagers surveyed. 10% said they had self-harmed in the previous 12 months, and 5% said they had considered suicide. When adjusting for gender, that figure jumps to 15 per cent of girls who had self-harmed in the previous 12 months, and 25% having thought about self-harming in that period.

In the Australian school context, the numbers equate to around 2-3 students per high school class that are self-harming. Effectively every Australian high school teacher is in contact with a self-harmer daily. While a student under stress, and self-harming, is more likely to admit their behavior to a peer, the attendant issues associated with self-harm, as described above, make identifying and treating it an “all round effort.” The concerned teacher should look out for the following behaviors, especially amongst their female students:

  • Inexplicable or sudden withdrawal from school activities
  • Wearing long sleeves, even in summer
  • Struggle coping with a divorce or other trauma
  • Being bullied
  • Impulsivity
  • Difficulty coping

Having understood firstly that students who are, or are considering, self-harm are most likely to be secretive, but also that the consequences of untreated self-harming behavior are dire, there exists a strong argument for class- or school-wide education with a view to prevention.

Adopting a universal approach to prevention will not only create awareness amongst the self-harmer’s peers, but may also address the self-harmer that is not outwardly displaying typical characteristics and who therefore may not have attracted the attention of a school psychologists or counselor. Additionally, educating the broader community about steps to take when a young person admits to self-harm will ensure that parents of friends, sport coaches, mentors and older students and youth leaders are aware of the significance, and know what steps to take.

 

Are schools equipped to deliver mental health services?

The Australian Government report Mental Health of Children and Adolescents (August 2015) revealed that not only had incidents of mental health disorders increased from 2.1% in 1998 to 3.2% in 2014, but also that access to school based services by students with mental health disorders increased from 19.2% 1998 to 54% in 2014. It naturally follows that school-based interventions are not only required, but in many cases preferred. As such the Australian government continues to support a number of school-based mental health initiatives that school administrators and principals are encouraged to make use of. These include:

Additionally it is well-worthwhile to learn how technology can play a role in delivering mental health services to young people here.

 

Where to go for help

With suicide being one of the leading cause of death for young Australians, a number of organizations are specifically geared to help Australia’s youth with mental and social issues. Should you be self-harming or be the teacher, parent or friend, of someone who self-harms, be sure to seek help on their behalf.

 

Closing Thoughts

The old humbug “It takes a village” comes to mind when contemplating the diverse, yet important subject of Australian youth’s mental health, but it is nonetheless apropos. While some studies show that the causes and underlying reasons for self-harm may be beyond the ambit of the concerned teacher, counsellor or principal that certainly does not mean they have no agency in affecting healthy and necessary change. Awareness, as is so often the case, is the first step. Thereafter, a willingness to embrace our broader responsibility to young people, who at times are less in need of a review of their calculus term paper, than perhaps a shoulder to cry on.

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At Saasyan we have developed Assure to help schools to proactively ensure the online safety of their students. Assure uses artificial intelligence to detect students at risk of self-harm, based on their web searches, social media messages, and online activity. Assure then notifies pastoral care staff and the student’s teacher of this activity. Read more at the Assure page or contact us if you would like to know how your school can use Assure to prevent student self-harm.

Student Cyber Welfare in Australian Schools

Australian Schools use Saasyan Assure to control, monitor, and report on student online behaviour while in the classroom, or on the school network – with the end outcome of eradicating cyberbullying and self-harm and promoting good digital citizenship.

Over 2018, thus far, Assure has monitored billions of web browsing activities by thousands of Australian schoolchildren. Assure users then receive access to comprehensive dashboards for on-demand reporting, as well as get real-time notifications regarding high-risk behaviour. This aids in keeping young people safe online, prevents self-harm and helps save young lives.

We analysed 3 months of web browsing data, from 12,000 students in 6 schools around Australia, to provide a glimpse into student cyber welfare, internet usage habits, and trends. This analysis was done to provide greater insights for teachers, School administration, and pastoral care staff who use Assure. We wanted to better understand the online habits of today’s young people in the School environment. We are committed to the well-being of students. We wanted to share our findings so that schools can better care for the Cyber Welfare of the students.

After doing this analysis, we found many interesting and even alarming statistics. Our data highlights a truth that many parents, educators, and others in our community believe: the Cyber Welfare of Australian Students must be monitored – and that too on a daily basis, with live alerts – if we are to help at-risk children in time. These findings also reveal that tech-savvy students frequently attempt to bypass web controls, which tells us a simple web filter is insufficient to ensure student online safety. Schools must invest in a fully featured, next generation firewall, and pair it with the pastoral care features of Assure.

Some of our findings include:

  • Students are heavy consumers of internet bandwidth, in some cases using more than 30GB per month
  • The word ‘Suicide’ was searched almost 289 times, an average of almost once per day, per school
  • Many student are tech savvy, using VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) to bypass School web filters

Please see the below infographic for a visual summary of our findings.

If you would like to explore this data for your own school, please get in touch with us here.

Cyberbullying – Is Your School Doing Something About It?

And that is precisely why we must take Bullying, and its latest edition, Cyberbullying seriously.

The national definition of bullying for Australian schools says:

And when you dive deeper into the notion of bullying, you uncover the three main features:

  • Misuse of power in a relationship
  • Ongoing and repeated, and
  • Behaviours that can cause harm.

Bullying has been around as a concept for an extremely long time. Longer than most realise. In fact, the word “bully” can be traced back to the 1530s (Harper, 2008).

Technology’s progression is often paralleled with the development of human society. Fundamental innovation, such as the Internet, forever changed how people interact. These developments allowed the human race to make great strides in many fields and also allowed forms of transgression to become more rampant and widespread.

As technology evolved, bullying flourished. With the advent of the Internet, chat rooms followed. Online forums provided a communal breeding ground for the young to assault one another (Greenfield, 2008). Chat rooms were supplemented by Instant Messaging, which enabled teens to spend hours talking to one another in private, one-on-one conversations or in public chat rooms. Even group-specific chat rooms appeared. This exclusive forum allowed for youth to get together with select groups of friends and talk about the latest gossip.

Bullying had evolved. Traditional bullying found a new version of itself in Cyberbullying. While the words, ‘Bullying’ and ‘Cyberbullying’ have much in common on face value and the intent and impact of both are rather similar, when you look under the hood, there are some stark differences.

Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying allows the offender to mask his or her identity behind a digital screen. The web’s inconspicuousness provides the perfect cover for a user to pester, harass or intimidate others without much repercussion. This anonymity also makes it easier for the offender to strike blows against a victim without having to see the victim’s physical response.

Just as Bullying causes physical and/or psychological harm, so too, in the case of Cyberbullying, the perpetrator uses online technology to bully an individual or group of people with the intent to cause psychological, social and even physical harm.

Where Cyberbullying differs, even more, is that the attacks are incurred 24/7 and the offender often remains anonymous. The elasticity and the efficiency of the digital landscape also allows the impact to be scaled across several people, instantly. Cyber bullies can impose and intrude what was once a safe haven – our homes.

So why should we take this problem seriously? Because Cyber bullying is now the second most common form of bullying in Australia. Approximately one in five young school students reported experiencing online bullying in any one year. 84% of students who were bullied online were also bullied in person. 72% of schools reported managing at least one incident of online bullying in the previous year.

The statistics reinforce that this is a serious matter and must be contended with, forthwith. And dealing with Cyberbullying is the responsibility of all stakeholders, especially the schools.

Can a school help reduce Cyberbullying? We say absolutely. And here is how…

Students spend a large proportion of their time at school. Cyberbullying occurs in school hours and after hours. It occurs on weekdays and weekends. Regardless of the timing, Schools must have the right fortitude and motives to tackle the issue. They must develop the right policies and procedures to deal with the issue. They must invest in the right tools and build the right processes to combat the issue.

Schools can be instrumental in detecting cases of cyber-bullying and self-harm. They can take the right steps at the right time to prevent a child from being cyberbullied. But they must have the right motivation, technology and processes in place to execute with precision, and just in time.

 

So, what are some of the things schools can do to grapple with Cyberbullying?

 

Set strict guidelines and policies to prevent cyberbullying

Schools must go on a journey of educating their students that all forms of bullying are unacceptable, and that cyber-bullying behaviours are subject to strict disciplinary action. Schools must educate students to contact their teachers and counsellors if they are victims of cyber-bullying, immediately.

Adopt policies that promote good digital citizenship

Schools must also promote the notion of good digital citizenship. They must educate students on the impact of cyberbullying. Real life examples of the impact on students must be shared so student become aware of the gravity. The value of being a good digital citizen must also be educated and rewarded.

Leverage peer mentoring

Schools can put a mentoring program in place whereby older students informally teach younger students and share learning experiences to promote positive online interactions. Educating students on social and emotional skills must also be mandatory. Research shows that teaching students on how to effectively manage their emotions and relationships with others can be useful in preventing interpersonal conflict.

Specify clear rules

The school must have robustly developed and clear rules regarding the use of the internet, computers, and other electronic devices. Acceptable Use Policies should become commonplace in schools and should cover online harassment. Post signs and posters in school computer labs, hallways, and classrooms must remind students to responsibly use technology.

Educate the community

The prevention of cyberbullying requires educating the community in which the children reside. Schools must leverage purposefully-created cyberbullying curricula to educate those in the community. General information sessions at school assemblies and in-class discussions must be leveraged to raise awareness among youth. Community leaders must be invited to speak with staff and students regarding the impact of cyberbullying and the benefits of good digital citizenship. Schools can send via mail and through the students, information to parents. Research shows that the largest and most powerful group in a bullying situation is the bystander, yet 70% of Australians do nothing to help. Work needs to be done for the 70% to transition from being mere bystanders to “upstanders” to eradicate bullying. Similarly, in the cyber-world, technology can make it possible for schools to be “upstanders”, intervene and save lives.

Invest in software

Schools must invest in technology and software that surfaces data about the online activity of students, including, the sites they spend time on, what they search for on the web and what they communicate over social media. Merely analysing the web searches of a student exposes significant insight into the state of mind of a person. Investing in the right software application can lead to saving a child’s life. For example: if a student searches for “Suicide Hotline” or “Suicide Helpline”, a cyber welfare focussed software application, such as Saasyan Assure, automatically sends an email alert to the dean of students informing her/him of the search performed. Schools must consider allowing limited access to social media during recesses. This could provide insight into a student’s mental state. The school may detect bullying activity over a social channel or notice students venting to their friends about the bullying they have been a victim of. Just as turning off the computer does not help the student being cyberbullied, so too, blocking social media access at school does not help the situation. The bullies find other mediums to cyber-bully. The solution is not in prohibition and blocking accress. The solution is in educating all stakeholders. The solution is also in implementing appropriate software to find the ‘cyberbullying’ needles in the haystack and intervene in person, when required.

Make Cyberbullying everyone’s priority

Schools must spread the responsibility of tackling cyberbullying amongst as many staff members as possible. It must not be confined to the function of IT. The principal and vice-principal, members of pastoral care, teachers, business managers etc. Each member of the faculty and all stakeholders must play their role in tackling cyberbullying.

Leverage the Data

Schools can leverage software to calculate the cyber-rating of each student on a daily basis and consider feeding this data as another dimension into the school’s student analytics system. As part of the good citizenship promotion efforts, the school may choose to allow students to have access to data visualizations on their online activity.

Improve the response to cyber-bullying cases

When a child is bullied at school, all the child usually wants is for the bullying to stop. Children often don’t even want the bully to get in trouble. Their primary aim is for the bullying to end. Parents, educators, and other adults tasked with responding to bullying incidents need to keep this in mind and respond in a way that stops the bullying.

The evolution of technology has provided bullies with more access, anonymity and scale. It is imperative that schools recognise the signs of cyberbullying or self-harm and give much-needed support to victims.

 

At Saasyan, we create and support open, cloud-enabled software to help Australian K-12 schools fulfil their duty of care to students and operate more efficiently. Our SaaS products are used by teachers, students, and school administration teams around the country.

Saasyan Assure enables schools to proactively ensure the online safety of their students.

Contact me at greg@saasyan.com.au for an obligation free chat around student cyber-welfare.

 

 

Signs that your child is a victim of Cyber-Bullying

Many of us have lived through the distress and anxiety of being bullied. For children today though, bullying has exacerbated and intensified. It has evolved, adding a new dimension to itself. Bullying in the physical world continues. The added dimensions of evolving technology and the advent of social media platforms have introduced into the mix, Cyberbullying.

Bullying, traditionally took the form of harsh words on school playgrounds, notes passed around inside a classroom, shoulder barges hallways and tuck shops. It was overt. It was obvious and it was painful to the victim and the victim’s family. Today, ‘that’ form of bullying continues. The new entrant in the bullying sphere is its silent and potentially more damaging sibling – cyberbullying, and it can be perpetrated from and to anywhere. What makes matters worse – it is most often anonymously executed.

Many in the community have moderated cyberbullying to be merely harmless name-calling on channels such as Facebook. However, cyberbullies today leverage a vast array of technology to bully their victims. Children today spend a significantly large percentage of time online. They leverage computers, mobile phones, tablets, gaming devices etc. Above 80% of children in a research study conveyed that it is easier to get away with cyberbullying. So when we analyse the landscape, children are spending more time in the cyber world and there is a higher plausibility of the cyberbully getting away with it. This makes for a perfect storm of bullying. The statistic that makes matters worse is only about 10% of cyberbullying victims tell their parents.

Most children won’t admit to being cyberbullied. Their silence can be owing to a multitude of factors – threats made by the bully (“You tell anyone and I will bully you even more”) or the shame of admitting they have gotten themselves into a dangerous situation, even though it is no fault of theirs. This means, as a parent or even as an educator, you will need to do some proactive observing to keep children safe from cyberbullies.

This Infographic from Saasyan sheds more light on the signs that a child is a victim of cyberbullying.

 

Are you a Bystander, or an Upstander?

Cyberbullying; “deliberate and repeated harm inflicted through the use of online technology”, is now the second most common form of bullying in Australia.

In Australian schools, the problem is endemic. Approximately 20% of school students reported experiencing online bullying in any one year. Furthermore, more than 80% of students who were bullied online reported being bullied in person. Pertinent to note that these statistics are based on the known instances of Cyberbullying. Children typically under-report instances of bullying and cyberbullying. The actual figures are certainly and indubitably higher.

Bullying has the potency to ill-affect every part of a young person’s life, including relationships with friends and family. It can affect a person’s confidence and performance at school, at home, in sport and in other activities. Young people who are bullied are also more susceptible to develop anxiety and depression.

Bullying traditionally had obvious visible signs. Shouting, beatings, bruises, witnesses etc. Cyber bullying does not come bundled with the overt and the obvious signs. Most of the behaviour takes place behind a digital screen. It consequents into emotional harm and widespread notoriety owing to the nature of social media.

The ‘usual suspects’ who perpetrate ‘in-person’ bullying may (or not) be responsible for cyber bullying. A wider and different range of personalities are drawn into online misbehaviour. Since it is not as public an attack as is in the physical world, cyber bullying offers a kind of protection to the perpetrator – even anonymity.

Identifying cyberbullying attacks or online harassment directed towards children in schools is difficult to detect and as such, harder to combat. It is often lumped in the ‘not easy to assess’ and as such in the ‘too hard’ basket. Resultantly, educators and school administration can sometimes be guilty of neglecting Cyberbullying or bypassing the issue.

Several schools in Australia have taken the bold step to ban mobile phone use in school hours. On the surface, this appears to tackle the issue head-on: young people are bullying others or coming to harm, while accessing apps and websites from their mobile phones. Surely, banning the phones removes the issue.

When we consider the problem more deeply, we can see that banning phones simply shifts the problem out of sight. Do our students still go online? And do they do so multiple times a day? Probably. Are they likely to hide their phones and conceal their use? Quite likely. And does the bullying issue disappear? Definitely not.

In fact, a move such as banning phones can potentially increase the risk of harm to children. With phones banned from school, should a child experience online bullying, they will almost certainly not report it as they are bypassing school policy by simply using a phone on school grounds. This is what a focus on ‘policing’ does: it creates more offenders, and reduces the chance of schools to have a positive impact.

So, how should schools react to the increased issue of online bullying?

Research shows that the largest and most powerful group in a bullying situation is the bystander, yet 70% of Australians do nothing to help when they observe bullying.

Two things need to happen for this to change:

  1. Schools must remain aware of cyber bullying being perpetrated by or on their students;
  2. Bystanders need to transition, to becoming “Upstanders”.

In a day and age of advanced technology, such as next-generation firewalls and advanced web filtering and reporting tools, there is no excuse for schools to remain unaware of online bullying.

Our own product, Saasyan Assure, allows pastoral care and other School staff to be proactively notified when certain keywords are used by children or certain behaviours are detected online.

Detection combined with action is an excellent recipe for saving lives. For example, children who have searched keywords related to suicide and self-harm would have gone undetected without the proactive reporting in Assure – and they would have gone unhelped without the response of an ‘Upstanding’ educator.

And who can be an Upstander? Parents, teachers, pastoral care staff, school administration, leadership and even other students. Many young people these days are standing up and publicly saying ‘no’ to online bullying, calling themselves out on social media as a ‘positive influencer’. Building a culture where this attitude is the norm sustainably prevents online bullying. Education and encouragement around good ‘digital citizenship’ goes a long way to sorting cyberbullying proactively, rather than reactively.

And do Upstanders need to do anything extraordinary? Do they need to front up to bullies? Do they need to come up with solutions and mediation? Not necessarily.

The key objective of an Upstander is to help students report bullying. When a child is bullied and they confide in a friend, or turn to an adult for help, all they want is for the bullying to stop. They are usually not seeking retaliation or revenge: they often don’t even want the person doing the bullying to get in trouble. They simply want the bullying to end. Parents, educators, and other adults tasked with responding to bullying incidents need to keep this in mind, and respond in a way that stops the bullying.

The biggest issue in combating online bullying is turning Bystanders into Upstanders. Technology is not the problem: apathy is the roadblock.

Become an Upstander, intervene when you have the opportunity, and save lives.

 

References:

https://www.ncab.org.au/news-blog/525-million-the-annual-australian-bully-bill/

https://www.ncab.org.au/news-blog/10-steps-to-deal-with-school-bullying-and-cyber-bullying/

Saasyan Tempus new release reduces admin time for teachers and schools

Saasyan is delighted to announce that it has released Version 1.3 of its flagship timetable integration software, Tempus.

Tempus integrates data and schedules from Australia’s leading school management, calendaring, and timetabling applications. It allows users to use their preferred Office 365 or Google Calendar, rather than constantly checking multiple apps.

This release of Tempus opens new abilities for school staff and students to collaborate, cut down on administration, and unify schedules and timetables.

Users have been given more control with the release of Tempus 1.3. Staff and students can now login to Tempus to set their calendar reminders on or off, and to set their preferred event category. Both settings will override the system-wide ones set through the admin menu.

There are five key updates for System Admins of Tempus within this release. The updates are focused on increasing functionality, interoperability, and ease of use:

  1. Event Reminders can now be set on or off system-wide through the admin menu
  2. Timetable Import Schedule can now be set through the admin menu
  3. Status Page now displays more information, including the last synced timestamp and the number of sync enabled users
  4. Tempus now has a RESTful JSON API that can be leveraged to push timetable/calendar items and interact with the system programmatically
  5. Tempus now supports LISS v1.0.2 and is one of the export destinations within Timetabler from Timetabling Solutions

Greg Margossian, CEO of Saasyan, commented – “Teachers, school staff, and even students and volunteers within schools are overwhelmed with a barrage of messages and notifications every week of term. Balancing school life and extracurricular appointments is only becoming more challenging. This challenge is exacerbated by disparate calendaring and timetabling systems.”

“At Saasyan we are passionate about helping our hard-working teachers cut down on manual administrative work, so they can focus on doing what they love. We also help school administration make daily timetable changes immediately available to teachers and students, in their calendar app of choice.”

“Saasyan has built Tempus to allow schools and students to integrate all their classes and appointments into one calendar – a single point of truth. It takes an administrative load off the shoulders of our hard-working educators, and ensures our high-achieving young people can be focused on their school and life rather than on trying not to miss a class.”

As Saasyan grows and adds more delighted customers, it is focused on putting time and budget back into Research and Development. Saasyan’s mission is to create safe, productive schools: ongoing R&D combined with constantly listening to customer feedback are crucial to ensure this mission becomes a reality.

For more information please contact Greg Margossian, Saasyan’s Founder and CEO, on marketing@saasyan.com.au.

Announcing Saasyan® Assure V3.0

Proud to announce Saasyan® Assure can now leverage the power of Palo Alto Networks® Next Generation Firewalls to intercept Facebook Chat, Google Hangouts, Yahoo! Messenger, Twitter and Snapchat traffic to detect, alert and report on potentially dangerous communication amongst students. One more feature to help schools better fulfil their duty of care obligations vis-a-vis their students’ cyber welfare.

Top 5 Cyber-Welfare Problems in Education and How to Resolve Them

The concept of “smart” is seeping into all aspects of society, and now, it’s powering our classrooms. Education in Australia has undergone a massive shift over the past ten years. It has evolved from a manual learning environment to a “smarter” digital learning space powered by smart devices such as tablets, mobile phones, and smart whiteboards.

This trend has engineered the creation of “Smart Schools”, which is the next step in the integration of education and technology. Smart schools connect educators and students to limitless learning possibilities on the digital sphere.

Smart schools = smarter tech responsibility

In the creation of Smart Schools, we are witnessing new avenues of learning opening up in the digital realm. However, this new educational sphere demands the assurance of school and student cyber-safety, where new security and safety threats can emerge. This is complicated by the onset of BYOD, or ‘bring your own device’ capabilities, where students are allowed to use their own smart devices in their lessons and learning.

There are pros and cons in enabling BYOD functionality in schools, along with a host of other issues that arise out of digitizing manual learning processes. Primarily, it’s entrusting students with access to a wide range of media, including “fun” content outside of education.

For instance, let’s consider social media resources such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and Tumblr. These are some of the biggest academic distractions students indulge in today. Such sites are easily accessible via students’ own devices, which means that schools are tasked with the additional responsibility of ensuring that social media does not distract from academic work. Furthermore, when students bring their own devices and connect them to the school’s wireless network, there is the risk of a virus worming its way into the school’s IT network. These problems and others should be proactively managed by the school IT department, with measures in place to respond in case of network shut-downs or other issues. Furthermore, education officials must be empowered with the ability to control what level of access is provided to teachers and students.

Fortunately, there are preventive measures that schools can take to protect the institution and its students when acclimating to the “smart school” world. Thanks to the advent of advanced protective digital technology, schools can ensure that ensure that:

  1. Students are able to only access safe, appropriate content relevant to education and learning.
  2. Student-onboarded devices do not threaten the security of the school’s IT network.
  3. School decision-makers are empowered with full access privileges and can grant or revoke access.
  4. School decision-makers can access full student usage information and analytics for better business planning.
  5. School decision-makers receive instant alerts and stay on top of unusual student web activity the moment it happens.

How can I protect my students and IT network in cyberspace?
There are a plethora of cyber-security options that provide premium services to ensure school network safety and security. Some features that you might want to check on your list should include the following:

Compliance
Schools are entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring student safety in all aspects whilst on school property, and this responsibility now includes cyber-welfare. Your chosen software suite should have appropriate compliance controls to ensure that you are better able to fulfil your care of duty obligations as an educational institution.
Visibility
Educators and other school officials should be empowered with the ability to check and track students’ web activity independently of the IT department. Does your firewall/web filter provider ensure this?
Alerts
Receive instant notifications when your students access inappropriate content. The product must be able to easily catch red flags and notify educators and IT personnel immediately.
Retention
Record student usage trends and conduct analysis on web access trends over an annual period. Ensure compliant digital citizenship practices across the board and reward responsible student cyber behaviour.
Overrides
As educators, you have the oversight to allow temporary access to certain content at your discretion. Perhaps the content is graphic, yet informative for upper-class students to use for final projects. Your software provider should ensure that you control access all the way.

Key points to remember
At the end of the school day, officials and educators should head home with the knowledge that they’ve created a safe, secure learning environment for students, whilst ensuring the safety and integrity of the school’s IT network. A primary concern is ensuring compliant digital citizen practices, and the right software solution can ensure that your network users are responsible for their usage.

As schools and indeed, the world, becomes more connected on the digital sphere, cyber threats also evolve in sophistication. Therefore, educators must exercise their utmost commitment to ensuring that our youth are free to enjoy a safe, carefully monitored online experience whilst on school property.

If you would like more information on how to fully ensure your students’ and school’s cyber-welfare, get in touch with us today.

Saasyan® is now a Palo Alto Networks® NextWave Technology Partner

We are pleased to announce that Saasyan® is now a Palo Alto Networks® technology partner. Enhancing cyber-welfare in Australian education is what we do best!