Courts have long held that when a child goes to a school, school officials serve as in loco parentis. This essentially means the school staff takes over some of the responsibilities of a parent.
With the advances in technology and the ability to monitor students away from school, some educational systems are taking the in loco parentis entirely too far. A report in the Technology section of the New York Times said some companies are offering school systems the ability to search networks to see what kids are doing outside of and away from school.
As outrageous as this sounds, it is a reaction to a number of teenage suicides. These children killed themselves after suffering from online bullying.
It’s not the school system’s responsibility to monitor what children do outside school. That is a job for the real parent (or guardian).
The other problem that arises with this tremendous invasion of a student’s privacy rights is the security behind these systems. Schools which gather this information and collate it also store much more sensitive information about children, up to and including medical records and Social Security numbers.
A cyber criminal breaking into a school system’s network has immediate access to hundreds to thousands of student records. That’s valuable information in today’s black market information world.
One of these “security” companies is Safe Outlook Corporation. Company president David Jones told CNN, “You can identify a student, and you can jump into their activity logs and see exactly what they’ve typed, exactly where they’ve gone, exactly what they’ve done, and it gives you some history that you can go back to that child and use some disciplinary action.”
How long will it be before someone uses this kind of information for malicious purposes instead of helping students? History tells us, not long. It may have already happened and we just don’t know about it.
As a parent, what can you do? Ask what information your child’s school stores electronically. Ask to have as much of it removed as possible and emphatically say your child’s non-school activities may not be monitored.
Read more in Raj’s book Unplugged: A Luddites’ Guide to Cyber-security. Click Here.