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Keeping Safe in the Digital Classroom

Schools need to have robust digital systems in place to keep student data private. This includes content filtering and threat protection that proactively blocks access to adult content, gambling, weapons, terrorism and other threats.

Educators and privacy advocates should work together to create common standards that developers can refer to. This will help ed tech companies comply with different state regulations and respond to district priorities.

Edtech Security Measures

When schools first begin to explore digital tools, it’s essential that they look at privacy settings. This involves understanding what data the tool collects and how it’s used, allowing teachers to make decisions about how to limit its use.

Another important issue to consider is how secure the underlying technology is. Data needs to be protected in transit and at rest, and it’s crucial that districts know how their chosen tools protect against cyber attacks and hacking.

A solid security plan also includes developing contingency strategies that ensure the safety of students and their data. This means having protocols in place for responding quickly and effectively to incidents, including incident detection, containment, recovery and communication with affected stakeholders. This helps to minimize the impact of any data breaches and cyber attacks that may occur. It also helps to build trust with stakeholders, and reaffirm the school’s commitment to student data privacy. Then, everyone can work together to keep students safe in the digital age.

Data Encryption

Schools house a wealth of information that hackers can access to steal confidential student data. Students should be taught how to protect their own data by creating strong passwords, using encrypted communications and not clicking on suspicious links. Encryption systems such as Triple DES, Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA) help keep student data private from hackers. Schools should also monitor their network’s endpoint activity to identify suspicious behavior and isolate infected devices before a breach occurs.

Parental Permissions

Parental permissions allow parents to control their children's online activities and protect them from certain content. They can be used on devices like laptops, tablets and smartphones. They also can be set up on a computer's web browser.

Students need to learn how to stay safe in the digital age, and that starts at a young age, says Florence Martin, an NC State professor who researches learning, design and technology. Her advice for teachers and parents is to teach cyber etiquette and how to avoid being targeted by online predators.

PTAs can help by facilitating the development of a digital code of conduct in collaboration with school authorities and encouraging parents to use parental controls. They can also work to educate students about their privacy rights and how to report cyberbullying or other concerns. The COPPA Rule requires that companies get verifiable parental consent before collecting personal information from kids. To do so, they must choose a method that is reasonably designed in light of available technology to ensure that the person getting the consent is the child's parent.

Online Safety Tools

In the digital classroom, teachers create online learning communities for themselves and their students. These online venues have a variety of tools that allow teachers and students to collaborate and learn more easily. However, those technologies also collect data, including student information. It’s important for educators to be aware of the data privacy risks that come with these apps and online learning platforms.

Educators should have a point person to handle student data privacy questions and decisions. It may be someone at the district office or in a school (such as an assistant principal or tech coach).

Every app and third-party tool should have a fine print describing how personal information will be used. Educators should review these privacy policies regularly and make sure the external parties are keeping their promises. In addition, schools should have a system for requesting new applications that is efficient and that ensures compliance with privacy laws.

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