The Challenges of Online Security within Education?

by Tyler Pollard

Internet Safety

As school boards consider the amount of Cyberbullying and the sexual soliciting that is occurring over social platforms such as Facebook, and the amount of unsafe content currently available online (pornography, violence, hate related material etc.), it is not surprising that Internet safety has become a huge barrier to the implementation of new technologies in education

Protecting our Children from Harmful Material

In the United States, the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), requires schools to meet very strict requirements for protecting children from unsafe or obscene content.

In Canada, even though we are not as strict as our US counterparts are, provincial school boards do have procedures and policies in place to block and/or filter undesirable content/websites and educate students about digital citizenship.

Protecting our Children’s Privacy and Personal Information

A close cousin to CIPA, in the United States, is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which protects children’s online privacy (i.e. personal information).

Unfortunately, Canada falls short once again because our equivalent, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), does not have any privacy law specific to the needs of children.

To find out more about our protecting our children’s online activity in Canada, go to  Online privacy protection for kids lagging in Canada

School Internet Safety Policy and Protocols

In today’s era, it is imperative for educational institutions across the United States and Canada to have Internet safety policies and protocols in place in order to protect our children from both internal and external threats and/or incidents.

To read further about Internet safety, CIPA, and the safeguards school boards should have in place to protect students, please visit Children’s Internet Protection Act Protects Students is an Informational Sheet for Public and Private Schools.

To learn more about how school boards can address the additional security risks of “bring-your-own-device” programs go to Security at K–12 Schools Ramps Up as More Devices Roll In

How does restricted access to the Internet impact Education?

While “search filtering” and “content filtering” are doing an adequate job of protecting students from inappropriate materials, and should be applauded, these safeguards are also preventing students from levering the power of the Internet to further their own learning.   For example, in many school boards, the use of Facebook, Wikipedia, YouTube, blogs, Wikispaces, and Google are strictly prohibited, which has a direct influence on the rate of technology adoption in the classroom. This has resulted in widespread debate amongst educators about which content is to be considered unsafe and which content is to be considered unacceptable.

Have School Boards gone too far?

With the sheer amount of information available over the Internet, school boards are finding it hard to balance the need for students to connect to the Internet with issues surrounding safety and respectful behavior.

In a very humorous article Talking Points About Internet Safety, the author, Scott McLeod asks,

“Why are you penalizing the 95 percent for the 5 percent? You don’t do this in other areas of discipline at school. Even though you know some students will use their voices or bodies inappropriately in school, you don’t ban everyone from speaking or moving. You know some students may show up drunk to the prom.”

In his article, Scott calls for more education for students and parents and for schools to ‘loosen up’ control on their policies.

Education as the only viable answer

As Scott mentions, teachers play a crucial role in setting high expectations for online behavior and digital citizenship.  With this said, schools should have more open conversations about online safety so that students learn to set personal boundaries and feel more comfortable reporting incidents like bullying and harassment.

Parents also play an important role and school boards have to direct them to important resources with such as the Child Internet Safety Guide for parents or the Canadian Center for Child Protection website to gather more information on how to protect their children.

Future of Technology Implementation within Schools

Unfortunately, the adoption of any new technology is seldom a straightforward process. School boards have to consider how any new tools can be properly implemented to ensure the safety as well as protect the privacy rights of children.

I hope that with the ongoing improvements to the security systems within schools, there will be fewer barriers to the implementation of new technologies.  This will go along way to put the powers of Internet exploration back in the hands of the students!

Resources

Campbell, A. (2014, July 7). Online privacy protection for kids lagging in Canada.

Canadian Centre for Child Protection. (2014, February 11). What Can Parents do to Protect Teens Online?

Gollotti, B. (2016, March 31). Children’s internet protection act protects students.

How k-12 schools can protect students from inappropriate content? (2016, May 16).

McLeod, S. (2012, November 1). Talking points about Internet safety.

Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick. (n.d.). Child Internet Safety.

Wong, W. (2016, March 31). K-12 districts increase security measures as more students bring their own devices to school.

 

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