Learning tools such as websites, apps, and games should collect only the information they need to accomplish their educational purposes. And whatever personal information is collected should be kept private and protected from unauthorized access (such as hackers and data brokers snooping for personal information). If teachers ask kids to use specific websites that they must log in to as part of an ongoing teaching tool, there are a few simple things parents can check:
Find out how secure the site is. Does the URL begin with "https"? The "s" on the end of "http" means there's an extra layer of security on the website. Make sure that "s" is there both before and after your kid logs into the site.
Do a password check. Pretend your kid has forgotten his or her password. Does the site display the password or email it to him or her? If so, the password is not securely protected.
Check sharing settings. If kids are creating websites, sending messages, or creating other shareable content online, make sure the privacy settings are correct. Kids (and teachers) might be sharing more than they think. You can test this by pasting your kid's website URL into a new browser to test what it looks like to the public.
Many digital tools that schools use do more than teach kids -- they also track performance. This can be a great tool for teachers who can use this information to support or challenge kids who need it and to create a more personalized lesson for each kid.
But it's important to make sure teachers and administrators have a plan for how to use, store, and eventually destroy the data they collect. Not all schools have figured this out yet, and until enough legal protections are in place for students, it's a good idea to be aware of the basics you should expect from your school:
Personal information should be used only for educational purposes. Ask if it's really necessary for a student to include details such as their full name and age.
Personal information or online activity should not be used to target advertising to students or families.
Schools and education technology providers should have appropriate data-security policies, including those related to how they store and destroy student data.
Use these basics to ask your kid's teacher or principal what your school's policy is on the collection and protection of your child's personal information.
For more information, check out Student Data Principles.
Also, join Common Sense Kids Action in standing up for student privacy.
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