Once bitten, twice shy. As the saying goes, the world has suddenly woken up to the perils of online hacking and how it’s likely to affect schoolchildren.
The Threat to Your Children’s Online Privacy
Accordingly, it’s gradually learning to defend itself from this scourge through enhanced computer security. Parents, while now being more aware of their children’s online data security are also grappling with two main issues; information that their children are sharing as also data-mining by business houses.
The use of apps and mobile devices continues to grow at an alarming speed both at school and at home. This has led to a situation where a large number of companies have started compiling and analyzing confidential and sensitive data relating to the online activities of children.
Consent Is Mandatory
For example, some sites have even started offering video games with cartoon characters to keep track of children’s activities to create advertisements specifically for them. More alarmingly, some popular apps can even garner information on children’s whereabouts or their home phone numbers.
The COPPA or Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a federal law has been implemented. It stipulates that online operators need parental consent before they can collect personal details of a child under the age of thirteen. However, many parents feel that this just isn’t enough.
This is more so as the law applies only to those apps/sites that are directed at young children specifically. Unfortunately, it’s not applicable to general sites that both children and adults visit.
Almost All Apps Collect Your Data
The problem has been compounded by the fact that a host of companies engaged in digital marketing are scouring and storing images that people post on Pinterest and Instagram and helping advertisers to sharpen their pitches.
Often times, parents are unaware of using the right privacy settings. This leads to more and more websites and apps collecting information from children.
A recent survey has revealed that a fruit-slicing online game that comes for free slyly collects information about its users. The data includes phone numbers, location, and more alarmingly, the phone’s unique identification code for ad-tailoring.
Thus privacy seems to be non-existent here and is, therefore, a cause for much concern. The same holds true for sites and apps that track children’s locations. Schools use such applications to conduct the insecure video conferencing and/or webcams calls.
How Do You Protect Data Privacy of Schoolchildren?
Keep track of what your child is doing online: It always pays to view your child’s online activities with a degree of healthy skepticism, if not suspicion. This calls for keeping a careful watch over their activities with digital technologies.
Prevention is always better than a cure; a good way to prevent your child from misusing the Net is to carefully read the privacy policies of all sites/apps they use.
Make your child see the reality:
Since children are taking to technology much faster, their parents are often unable to help them navigate it appropriately.
As such, schools have tied up with digital content providers that teach students the basics of online security. These types of programs use interactive scenes a child may encounter in real life.
They further go on to show how a cybercriminal can misuse such personal data to unfairly access the child’s parent’s bank account. Cybercriminals can even plant virus-ridden software on home computers or send out nasty messages from online accounts. Children get to watch educational videos on how they should respond in such circumstances.
Students learn to change their privacy settings so that they can block any stranger from contacting them. Discovery Education, for instance, is one such company that is working all over the US. It aims to develop an online curriculum that makes children more aware of protecting their personal online data.
Know what software your child’s school is using
As a parent, you have the responsibility to check what software programs your child is using in his/her classrooms. It is crucial to verify whether these programs collect any specific information. It is also astute to know which security protocols the school is using to secure a student’s personal information.
The fact that countless students in schools across America are using Chromebooks now means that Google can build profiles about the next American generation without much resistance.
Insist on transparency
Ask the authorities of your district and/or child’s school in advance whether the latter has or will disclose any personal information of your ward to any companies, persons or organizations which function outside the ambit of the district or school.
Any disclosure to a third party should be by way of contracts available publicly as also privacy policies specifying what data is to be disclosed and why. It should also include a clause to provide a certain date for the data to be erased or destroyed.
Say “No!” to commercial use
If anybody approaches you for consent to sell personal student data for any marketing purpose, just say no. It’s for you to insist that no advertising is allowable on websites or instructional software assigned to schoolchildren because ads tend to distract a child from learning while also serving no practical educational purpose.
Take appropriate security protections: Make sure there’s appropriate encryption of your ward’s personal data both at rest and motion.
This, of course, requires regular interaction with those school authorities who can access student data. Ensure that passwords are as protected as any other student information.
It is also for the school authorities to immediately notify all parents if there is a security breach. An additional responsibility of the school should be that it shall not disclose any “de-identified” or “anonymized” student information without verifiable safeguards so that the data can’t be re-identified easily.
Do not allow any vendor to make a re-disclosure to organizations or additional individuals without notifying you and getting your consent first.
You could even ask the school to allow you to check any data that’s directly collected from your child by its school or any vendor who has access to the school’s student database.