If you’re a parent of a K-12 student or a student yourself, your computer use is likely being monitored by your school, according to new research.
The monitoring of student electronic devices by schools is “widespread,” with 81% of teachers surveyed saying their schools use student activity monitoring software, according to the Center for Democracy and Technology, a digital rights group.
Monitoring software was most often installed on school-issued devices, but about 20% of teachers, parents, and students surveyed said it was installed on students’ personal devices. Thirty percent of teachers said monitoring software was active all of the time, not just during school hours.
While supporters of student monitoring say it has many benefits, this surveillance of student online activity raises several privacy concerns, said Elizabeth Laird, the director of CDT’s Equity in Civic Technology project.
CDT’s research found that 6 in 10 parents and teachers are concerned that student online monitoring “could bring long-term harm to students if it is used to discipline them or is shared and used out of context,” she told the Washington Examiner. She added that about half of parents and teachers surveyed raised concerns that activity monitoring could have “unintended consequences,” such as outing gay and transgender students.
Monitoring also has free speech implications, added Chad Marlow, a senior policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Students who know they are being monitored will not engage in academic investigations that they think may subject them to criticism or punishments, which severely undermines concepts of academic freedom,” he told the Washington Examiner. “Students who know their communications are being monitored will simply not have those communications, which may hurt them socially and deny them access to critical support systems when they need them.”
Supporters of the online monitoring of students say it can protect them against online predators and other cybercriminals. It can also identify cyberbullying campaigns and flag students who search for topics including suicide and eating disorders.
In addition, schools can use monitoring software to block inappropriate material, track logins to school apps, view students’ screens in real time, close browser tabs, and take direct control of input functionality, CDT said.
Perhaps not surprisingly, students tended to have a less positive attitude about monitoring than teachers and parents surveyed by CDT. More than 7 in 10 teachers and parents surveyed said device monitoring keeps students safe by identifying problematic online behavior and helps keep them focused on their schoolwork.
While half of all students surveyed said they are very or somewhat comfortable with device monitoring, more than a quarter said they are uncomfortable. Students not comfortable with monitoring raised privacy concerns and said the practice is “creepy.” About three-quarters of students surveyed said tracking of their personal devices is unfair.
The CDT, the ACLU, and eight other organizations called on Congress to protect student privacy and expression by updating the Children’s Internet Protection Act to clarify that the law “does not require broad, invasive, and constant surveillance of students’ lives online.” Many schools appear to monitor student devices to comply with CIPA, but the law, passed in 2000, does not require significant surveillance activities, the groups said.
CIPA does require that schools and libraries receive federal subsidies to support internet service, have an internet security policy, and block access to child pornography and other obscene material, according to the Federal Communications Commission. But CIPA does not require schools and libraries to track student internet use, the FCC said.
The ACLU’s Marlow called on monitoring to be 100% transparent and for schools not to share monitoring data without permission.
Monitoring “should only occur when it is absolutely necessary for the educational purpose for which the tech is being used, and no family should be monitored for a noneducational purpose unless they specifically opt in to doing so,” he said. “Children should never be forced to choose between protecting their privacy and receiving an education.”
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Original Author: Grant Gross
Original Location: Research says the monitoring of student devices ‘widespread’ in K-12 schools