Digital privacy is a hot topic. There are many sides to this debate—especially when factoring in student safety. It can be concerning for parents, who may worry about their child's data when it comes to using online tools. But in a time when education is evolving more and more to include the digital environment in order to sufficiently prepare students for the world beyond the classroom, avoiding these devices and tools isn’t an option.
Here at Gaggle, student safety is our top priority. We comply with HIPAA and FERPA guidelines, and have always maintained clear terms regarding how we treat student and staff data. We are deeply committed to keeping students safe while maintaining data privacy, but recognize that it can be challenging for parents to know if their students’ best interests are being considered.
We spoke with two parents in Gaggle districts to get their perspective on student safety in the digital age. Here’s what they shared with us.
Safety vs. Privacy
Catherine and Tera both have children in schools with a 1:1 Chromebook initiative in place. Starting in the sixth grade, students are issued a Chromebook, which they have access to 24/7 during the school year. Students bring their devices to class every day, bring them home every night, and even have them during school holidays, only returning their Chromebook to the school at the end of the year.
While using the school-issued devices, students’ activity is monitored by Gaggle to ensure their well-being in the digital environment. “The Chromebook is owned by the district. We pay a device fee, but we didn’t purchase the Chromebooks for our children to use,” said Tera. “These devices are issued out to the students strictly for schoolwork, so I personally don’t feel like it’s an invasion of their privacy to monitor what they’re doing on their Chromebooks.”
“Gaggle is such a key tool in picking up what parents and teachers could easily miss,” said Catherine. “We are living in a volatile time. It’s normal for kids to not want to talk to others about their problems,” she said. “But when they’re on Gaggle, they know it is a ‘safe space’ to share. We need to do everything we possibly can before they take action.” Tera agreed with this sentiment, stating, “I’m blown away by some of the things Gaggle has been able to catch. I’m so glad that the school has this, because what if they didn’t? It’s done its job.”
Helping Struggling Students
“I think kids today have so much to deal with that it becomes overwhelming and they don't know where to turn,” adds Tera. “Having Gaggle in place to catch these things—I love the idea of it and I'm glad that the district has implemented it.” Catherine also believes there needs to be some natural accountability for electronic communications. “First of all, they’re kids,” she said. “Second of all, what Gaggle is finding is not shared publicly—it’s private. It’s just for the benefit of helping find the kids who are in trouble.”
“Having Gaggle in place, just from a parent’s standpoint, makes me a little more at ease,” said Tera. “I think a lot of kids in this day and age can’t see past today. I think that's where they struggle—where they may think self-harm is the only way to escape whatever is going on in their life. As a parent, it’s so heartbreaking because you can always get past today. You just have to have somebody to talk to.”
“Gaggle provides peace of mind for me knowing my kids have this service in place,” said Catherine. “If someone else is struggling with mental health issues and it becomes a major safety issue, Gaggle is there to help those kids,” she added, “which is also helping my kids by keeping the district safer.”
Note: Surnames and school district information have been omitted for privacy.