By Jacqueline Beauchere, Chief Online Safety Officer, Microsoft

The Internet is an extraordinary tool for enabling children to learn and explore the world around them.  Many parents and educators recognize that digital literacy is a prerequisite to helping students excel in today’s digital world.  That’s why I want to help spread the word about a new Microsoft pilot program, Bing for Schools, to help teach these essential online skills. 

We know schools have limited resources.  In many cases, budgets are stretched to their limits.  With Bing for Schools, teachers and parents have access to free digital-literacy lesson plans to accompany Bing’s compelling daily homepage images, and participants in Bing Rewards can use their credits to help schools earn Microsoft Surface RT tablets. Bing For Schools also offers qualifying U.S. schools the option to tailor the Bing experience when on the school's network by removing advertisements from search results, enhancing privacy protections, and setting strict filters to help prevent adult content.

The program is free, and nothing additional is required by way of special software or a different settings.  Microsoft is offering the program so that schools can continue to do what they do best:  focus on learning, and readying our children for life in the 21st century.  Indeed, Microsoft believes the learning environment should be free from distractions, including advertising and questionable content. 

Bing already features SafeSearch, which filters out adult text, images, and videos from individual search results.  Anyone can turn on SafeSearch with these easy steps:
• Go to the Bing homepage
• Click on “Search History”
• Click  “Settings”
• Under “SafeSearch,” check “Strict.”

In the Bing for Schools program, SafeSearch will be automatically set to “Strict,” and students will be unable to change it back to “Moderate” or turn it off.

In today’s digital world, it’s important for all of us, not just formal educators, to advocate for online safety education.  Microsoft has championed this effort since the early 1990s, through cross-industry collaboration, numerous partnerships with NGOs like the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), and promoting online safety awareness campaigns, including STOP.THINK.CONNECT.

Bing for Schools is the latest example of Microsoft’s commitment to better protect individuals and families when they go online.  From Family Safety Settings in Windows 8, to Xbox parental controls, and advice about adopting safer online habits and practices at our Safety & Security Center, Microsoft is committed to keeping individuals and families safer and more secure as they live out their digital lives. 

Promote the integration of “Bing for Schools” in your community when talking to your local school officials about accessing online tools and resources.  Let them know it’s as easy as visiting bing.com/schools.  School districts can register for these search enhancements now; a limited number will be accepted into the initial pilot, with other schools being notified about future eligibility. You can always get more information by following us on Facebook and Twitter.