Back to School: Children’s Privacy

It’s back to school season and as kids are heading into the new school year, it’s important to think about your children’s privacy while they use education technology to do their schoolwork.

Have you ever wondered what information education technology is gathering from your kid? The FTC has issued a policy statement that puts ed tech on notice: Kids shouldn’t have to give up their privacy rights to do their schoolwork or go to class remotely, if needed. In other words, ed tech companies can’t require parents and schools to agree to the comprehensive surveillance of children to use those learning tools.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is at the center of efforts to protect kids’ privacy in the digital world. This law says that any site or service (think apps) that COPPA covers has to get a parent’s (or in some cases, a school’s) OK before it collects personal information from your child under 13. COPPA also protects kids’ privacy in other ways, like limiting how long companies can keep your child’s personal information.

With the pandemic-inspired explosion of ed tech, companies that offer online services directed to kids under 13 must follow the law, by properly safeguarding your child’s personal information and, in situations where a company relies on the school to provide consent, using kids’ information only for school-related purposes, not for things like marketing.

Here are some tips when navigating the education apps:

  • Try the apps out yourself before letting your kids use them.
  • At the app store, read the user reviews, content rating, and check up on the developer.
  • Talk to your kids about online dos and don’ts, including what information they should not share.
  • Use the parental settings to restrict content to what’s appropriate for your child’s age.
  • Set a password so apps can’t be downloaded and your kids can’t make purchases without your permission.

If you need more information, check out the COPPA Policy Statement itself for details.

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