How digital monitoring can help ELL students with mental health challenges 

There are an estimated 5.12 million English Language Learners (ELLs) attending schools in the United States, comprising approximately 7% of students. To support these students while also benefiting native English speakers, K-12 schools have increasingly begun implementing dual-language programs — particularly focused on Spanish-English immersion — and leveraging paraprofessionals to help bridge language gaps in English-speaking classrooms.

But even as ELLs become proficient in using English in the classroom, most will continue to communicate in their native language at times, including while writing and communicating online. If a school’s digital monitoring tools are not able to analyze non-English words or phrases, this leaves them unable to recognize and assist ELL students who may need help dealing with cyberbullying, depression, suicidal ideation, or other mental health concerns.

Three reasons ELL students may need wellness support

ELL students face a number of challenges that may leave them needing additional support. If your digital monitoring tools isn’t able to monitor these students’ conversations in their native language, it can prove to be a major concern for a few reasons:

  1. Rising student mental health concerns

According to the American Psychological Association, student mental health is worsening “by nearly every metric.” In fact, three pediatric medical organizations have also jointly declared a national state of emergency in children’s mental health, saying:

Rates of childhood mental health concerns and suicide rose steadily between 2010 and 2020, and by 2018 suicide was the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24…. The pandemic has intensified this crisis. Across the country, we have witnessed dramatic increases in Emergency Department visits for all mental health emergencies, including suspected suicide attempts.

Much research still needs to be done to understand and address the root causes of this crisis. And too often, students who are struggling with depression can be difficult to identify. But in some cases, digital monitoring software can help by flagging concerning online searches and conversations so administrators, teachers, and parents can intervene to get students professional help when needed.

Warning signs may be even more difficult to spot among ELL students, particularly if the school’s monitoring software is not able to analyze non-English conversations. Monitoring tools should be able to recognize red flags in a students’ native language, or important cues may be missed.

  1. Added challenges of being an ELL

ELLs not only face similar challenges to other kids their age, but they can also face additional stressors and pressures as well.

The Collaborative for Student Growth at NWEA found that, in general, ELLs start middle school with much lower self-efficacy rates than their peers, meaning they have less “confidence in their ability to attain a certain educational goal or outcome, such as the ability to do well on a test or earn good grades in class.” This reduced self-confidence can cause these students to move more slowly in closing their achievement gaps, even as they learn more English. The report points out the importance of social-emotional learning skills in helping ELL students overcome these challenges.

In addition, ELLs can feel socially isolated, particularly if there are few other students who share their language or cultural identity. Unsurprisingly, social isolation and loneliness have been associated with increased mental health struggles, making ELLs a higher-risk group than native English speakers.

  1. Fewer teachers and school counselors

Another factor affecting the mental health of ELLs is the often higher rate of teacher shortages in high-minority schools.

As individual educators become responsible for more students, they have less time to deepen those relationships, making them more likely to miss warning signs. Resource and staffing challenges like this are making digital monitoring tools even more important for schools.

How web filtering can help

Student behaviors that were previously observed in the classroom are now happening in online settings and may not be as readily visible. As a result, digital safety tools have become a vital part of mental health support in schools. 

Comprehensive digital safety programs include solutions that cover three major categories: content filtering / threat protection, keystroke monitoring, and classroom management.  

Content filtering and threat protection: Content filtering ensures that students can only access appropriate online content. Threat protection software blocks malicious users, viruses, and other cyber threats. Robust filtering solutions like Lenovo NetFilter leverage artificial intelligence to stay accurate and up to date, work in many languages, and block a wide range of digital threats. 

Keystroke monitoring and alerts: Keystroke monitoring analyzes what students are typing when they are connected in a digital classroom or when using school devices. The software is then able to flag comments or behaviors that may indicate cyberbullying, violence, emotional problems, self-harm, and other concerning behaviors. Lenovo NetFilter+ monitors student activity across multiple digital channels, complies with all federal laws protecting student privacy, and uses artificial intelligence to stay current with students’ language norms and cultural references. 

Classroom management: A third component of a comprehensive safety solution is real-time management of student device use. Classroom management software like LanSchool includes features that monitor student screens, so teachers can easily see what students are searching for and viewing during class. It also provides chat features, so teachers can address social-emotional needs as they are spotted.  

Lenovo NetFilter and Lenovo NetFilter+ can analyze and categorize conversations in more than 40 languages, including the most common languages spoken in U.S. schools. LanSchool Air supports nine languages, and has helped high-ELL school districts like St. Cloud Area School District effectively teach students who are new to English and new to technology.

Four ways to support ELL students

Supporting ELL students starts with having an awareness of the increased difficulties they face in staying mentally healthy while in school. If you’re an educator or administrator serving ELLs, you can take action to help these students weather the challenges they might face:

  1. Reinforce students’ cultural identities. English should be an ELL student’s additional language — not a replacement for their native language. Ensure students know they can bring their full identity to school by modeling how to embrace and celebrate one’s cultural identity.
  2. Help connect ELLs with other students and educators who can provide them with a support system. This may include other people who share their cultural identity or native language, but also native English speakers with whom the student feels comfortable.
  3. Leverage staff who speak in the ELL student’s language to reach out to these students’ families. School engagement can be difficult for parents who don’t speak English, so it’s important for schools to make an effort to ensure families are up to speed on their student’s progress and goals.
  4. Update your digital monitoring technology. Remember that if your edtech doesn’t support students’ native languages, it reduces your ability to catch concerning conversations or behaviors and intervene with the support your ELL students need.

Want to learn more about Lenovo NetFilter or Lenovo NetFilter+? Contact us to request a demo.


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