Privacy & Online Safety

In 2014, journalist Stuart Dredge asked a group of information technology security experts were asked about the best way to keep children safe online, and their responses were powerful and straightforward, forming a backbone of initial steps families can take to help keep their children safe online. These responses are largely mirrored by the state of the academic research literature on the subject of child development and educational technology.

Active Discussions about Safety

The most important rule of thumb is simple: Talk to your kids about being safe online, and stay involved. The more often you can have meaningful discussions with your children, and positive and consistent interactions with them using the tools they use, the more informed you will be, and the better your relationship with your children can become. Read our information about being a Media Mentor for more details.

Online Behavior should Mirror Offline Behavior

Darren Anstee, Director of Solutions Architects at Arbor Networks; Sue Gold of the data privacy legal team at Osborne Clarke; and Kevin Gourlay, head of (ISC)2 Safe and Secure Online all had basically the same message for their own children. In short, what one does online should follow the same “code of conduct” as offline. If one thinks of a website or application or game or resource or media platform as a physical place, and conceives a real-world analog, one can ask the question: “Would you go in there?” If your third grader knows well enough not to go into an adult-themed boutique, and would feel uncomfortable and strange doing so in the physical world, the same idea should apply. If a student would not threaten or curse at another person in the physical world, the same should apply in any online setting. Have conversations about what good behavior and communication looks like in the physical world, and then come to consensus about the digital analogs of those lessons.

Once It’s Out There, It’s Out There

Chris Hoff, VP of Strategic Planning and Security at Juniper Networks; and David Robinson, Chief Security Officer at Fujitsu reinforced a message that we should all take to heart: As a general rule, one should consider the things that are sent online to be accessible permanently. One never knows what could be copy-pasted, archived, saved, or otherwise re-posted. Much like the item above, consider a real-world analog: If you wouldn’t want it posted on a billboard in your neighborhood, it’s probably a not a good idea to say it online, in any forum. While some technologies have been invented to prevent text capture, screen shots, and saving, the rule of thumb is still viable and appropriate when it comes to staying safe and avoiding confrontations and dilemmas.

Use Appropriate Controls

The APS-issued Personalized Learning devices (iPads at the elementary and middle school levels, and MacBook Airs at the high school level) are for use in learning. Different schools (and even different teachers) have different ways they help students leverage these resources, but the purpose of the devices is to be used in learning. Under Federal law – specifically the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) and the Children’s Internet Privacy Act (CIPA) – APS has to filter much of the content that can be accessed on this device. However, using any device at home may require some additional control mechanisms.

These tools vary from device to device, and operating system to operating system. You should research tools that accomplish the goals you want to, that are specific to your situation. APS cannot endorse a particular company, of course, so that’s why we don’t have a list of tools to choose from here, but you may find it appropriate to use tools (that are often free!) to help put up basic safety restrictions on your personally-owned devices or networks.