Students Are Headed Back To School, Here Are Some Cyber Tips For Privacy and Security
Students in grades K-12 across the country have already started heading back to school. It seems like summer is never long enough for students and never short enough for parents. While the students were out there’s a good chance their school got a technology make over, after all, many teachers, principals and technology directors spent the summer at conferences like ISTE and the Principal’s Conference.
It was there and through professional development, that many educators learned even more about privacy and cyber security for students. Hopefully they will pass that information on to parents. But if they don’t here are a couple of things to think about.
First off, we may not realize it but there are still a lot of students out there that don’t have a computer or internet access at home. This can be scary for parents who don’t regularly use the internet.
Students may come home and talk about a collaborative assignment with kids from across the street or across the globe.
The first thing in any situation like this is to ask your student good questions. If you don’t like the answer, dig deeper. Don’t be afraid to admit that your child may know more about technology than you do. “I don’t know what you mean you were emailing students in Somalia, can you explain”. If you don’t like your student’s answer, make sure to ask the teacher.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation offered a great list of questions to ask your child’s teacher about technology, regardless of how much you, as a parent, know.
- What kind of devices, applications, and other technology are being used to teach your child?
- Were you presented with the opportunity to review the privacy policies of these vendors?
- What data are the technology providers and the school district collecting, respectively? Do vendors and schools clearly communicate why they’re collecting that data?
- Are the technology vendors using current best practices to protect the data collected on your child?
- You should be able to choose whether or not any use of your child’s data is collected or used for purposes beyond student education—for instance, product improvement. If data will be used for product improvement, is it properly anonymized and aggregated?
- Will the vendor disclose any student data to its partners or other third parties in the normal course of business? If so, are those conditions clearly stated? What are the privacy practices of those entities?
- In a hardware product like a laptop, are controls available to prevent the vendor and school district employees from using the devices’ webcams, microphones, and location-tracking features to spy on students? What are the school or district’s policies on using those features?
Every school that’s offering some kind of device program, whether it be 1:1 or shared devices, needs to have a good filtering platform or program in place. Filtering goes way beyond making sure your kids aren’t facebooking at school or that they can’t access pornography.
Filtering systems like Blocksi offer amazing amounts of control that you may not think are needed, but they are. Here are some good questions to ask your child’s school about their filtering platform. We believe that every teacher should know the ins and outs of their school’s filtering platform as well.
- What filtering program are you using
- Is the filtering program watching the content of the messages between students and teachers
- What steps does the filtering program have to make sure students aren’t circumventing it
- When my child comes home and uses your device, is he/she still on the filtering program
- Can the filtering program identify when my son/daughter is doing something unsafe on the internet
Filtering programs like Blocksi do all of those things and they even have content monitors across things like email and messaging to make sure students aren’t being cyber bullied or feeling depressed or even suicidal. Blocksi even offers tools that will alert both parents and teachers when something unsafe is happening.
A lot of teachers are starting to implement student made videos into every day learning. At earlier grades, like K-8 you want to make sure that teacher’s aren’t having their students Snapchat videos or start their own YouTube accounts, those decisions should be up to the family.
If your teacher is doing student made videos in their classroom you want to make sure they’re using a tool like FlipGrid that allows them to monitor what’s going on. Video can be an amazing tool to help students learn more, collaborate and bring them out of their shells. You just want to make sure that it’s absolutely safe.
Like we said earlier in the story, filters like Blocksi do provide some bit of cyberbullying protection but students determined to bully other students will find a million ways to do it. These days students are creating Instagram and Twitter accounts just to bully other students. They’re also sending text messages, snap chats and even emails bullying each other.
If your student is being cyber bullied reach out for help, contact the school and also check out the iCanHelpLine an advocacy site for victims of cyber bullying that can take care of the hard steps like contacting the major social networks.