From the Project Tomorrow Speak Up survey, we learned that 51% of parents of middle school students are worried about their children’s safety online, including being harassed or bullied on school-provided online collaboration tools, whereas in 2007 only 32% of parents expressed this concern.
Here’s some help for parents who want to know how they can partner with their local schools to keep their children safe online.
Rethink the Expectation of Privacy
Before discussing student privacy, let’s make a clear distinction. Privacy can mean one of two things. There are student privacy laws put into place with the best interest of students in mind. For instance, schools and districts are responsible for preventing personal information (like social security numbers) from reaching the public—or hackers—as well as the dissemination of certain information internally (for example, if students are on free and reduced lunch plans or if a student has an IEP).
But there is another type of privacy that pertains to students’ communications and files on school- and district-provided technology, which should always come after concerns centered on student safety.The privacy of communications in our daily lives does not translate well to data in the K-12 environment.
First, schools and districts are both legally and ethically responsible for what happens on the resources they provide. Just as schools need recess monitors to prevent harassment, violence and other similar issues on the playground, similarly they need measures in place to ensure students aren’t misusing or abusing learning products, like G Suite for Education, Office 365 and Canvas LMS. It goes without saying that schools and districts should not be in violation of broad student privacy laws.
Safety, on the other hand, is not about access to information. In the K-12 setting, it refers to the prevention of harmful situations that threaten the lives or well-being of students.
In our personal lives, privacy is tremendously important. When it comes to the online environments provided by schools and districts, however, a lack of privacy can be a good thing if it enables a school or district to intervene in situations of cyberbullying, violence towards others, drug and alcohol abuse and mentions of suicide. Content analysis and expert review of student content should, therefore, only take place on school-provided resources.
What’s in the Acceptable Use Policy You Never Read?
Have you read your student’s acceptable use policy for technology your school or district? AUPs are not only designed to protect the interests of the school or district (although that is a necessary component). They’re often also designed to protect the interests of students. Be sure to read the AUP for your student so that you are knowledgeable on how your children use this technology.
Opting Out Isn’t the Answer
The success of technological initiatives within K-12 is largely dependent upon a full-scale buy-in across an entire grade level. If a student opts out of a school- or district-wide initiative, they’ll likely be extremely disadvantaged relative to their classmates.
Creating Teachable Moments
There is no such thing as good people and bad people. Everyone has some amount of goodness in them, and all people are prone to make mistakes. Schools and districts should take proactive measures to create an environment of teachable moments. The purpose of Gaggle Safety Management is to foster the moral development of students, not to provide a mechanism for punishment. Content is reviewed for students, not against students.