Kents response to Personal publishing & social networking sites

Kent County Council is aware of bebo.com, and similar ‘Social Networking’ sites, and has been proactive in ensuring that such sites are not accessible from school computers.  While the concept of such sites may be acceptable – enabling people to exchange information about themselves – many young people publish far to much personal information, potentially compromising their safety.  Whilst such sites list schools by name, this information is in the public domain and schools are often unaware that they are listed, or indeed that sites such as bebo.com exist as they are often targeted at children directly.

 

KCC is concerned that such sites use school information to develop social sites for children, and whilst there are controls in place in schools, these do not extend to home, libraries with public access computers or other computers with Internet connections, which is where most of this activity is generated.

 

Kent County Council is working to ensure that the recommendations in the recently published national e-safety strategy are implemented across Kent schools.

 

The Kent Community Network provides broadband Internet to most schools in Kent, and includes a sophisticated filtering service called Websense. This has a team categorising websites for suitability, and preventing access to inappropriate sites on a global basis.

 

Within Kent, Websense allows blocking of inappropriate sites notified by Primary schools. Secondary schools can apply their own blocking policies in addition to the central blocked lists.

 

Bebo.com is categorised by Websense under the category “personals and dating”, which is blocked to all Primary schools on our network. Secondary schools are strongly advised to block this category, but have local discretion. Most choose to do so, and random tests have confirmed that most have done so.

 

Grahame Ward

Director – Resources – Children, Families & Education

 

There have been a number of interesting articles and blog / website posts about personal publishing sites lately.

1. Peter Banbury has written an article – ‘A Dangerous Corner of Cyberspace – Free Personal Publishing sites’

2. Wired Safety have produced Guidelines about the dangers of personal publishing sites such as Bebo and myspace and what parents can to if there is an incident on Myspace

We welcome your comments on this topic!

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