A survey of parents with school-age children in Boston shows parents see many benefits from in-school internet access, with more than 80 percent stating that in-school internet access helps students develop the necessary skills to gain employment and participate in the global economy. However, a majority of parents are unaware that technology companies may be tracking their children’s internet use at school. This demonstrates the importance of and need for stronger protections to prevent student data mining and online tracking in Boston schools.
The findings are based on a survey conducted for SafeGov.org aimed at understanding Boston parents’ views on technology in the classroom and their awareness of student data mining.
The survey shows that:
- 90 percent of parents agree that schools using free applications or vendor devices should demand restrictions on data mining, stating that privacy policies should guarantee no user profiling or web tracking are used for any purpose not strictly related to education.
- 89 percent of parents agree that children’s personal data deserves higher levels of protection than ordinary consumers’.
- While parents hold schools most responsible for protecting students’ privacy, 91 percent of parents say they are likely to take action against data mining, with parents of younger students being even more likely act.
Parents’ comfort with technology in schools can be increased if safeguards are established to protect students’ privacy online. At the same time, parents in Boston said they are willing to take personal action to protect their children’s privacy.
Key findings include:
- Nearly all parents, 92 percent, say they would be concerned if internet companies were tracking their children’s online habits.
- Parents in Boston strongly disapprove of student data mining unless it is solely used to improve learning. 87 percent of parents disapprove of companies that profile children or track their internet activity in school for commercial purposes not related to education.
- After parents learn about the types of online tracking and profiling that can take place in schools, the intensity of their concerns increases by 16 percent.
- 84 percent of parents would be more comfortable with in-school internet use if they had the opportunity to opt out from having their children’s internet use tracked for activities not related to education.
- 88 percent of parents agree that school-purchased devices such as laptops or tablets should require that all ad-related functions be removed from the devices—not merely turned off.
Jeff Gould, president of SafeGov.org, commented on the survey’s findings: “Education technology has transformed the way students and teachers interact in the classroom, providing seemingly limitless opportunity to improve instruction and learning outcomes. But we must address the costs, beyond financial, to our schools and children. Boston parents, like parents across the world, are concerned and willing to take action to safeguard students’ privacy. Elected and school officials in the city of Boston must address parents’ concerns and lead on this issue, serving as an example for schools and school districts across the country.”
About the Survey
The findings are based on a survey conducted between January 2015 and February 2015 of parents with school-age children in Boston. For more detailed results, please visit: http://bit.ly/1O7xntD.