Borrowed a school laptop? Remember your open tabs

When ten Millions of students suddenly had to learn from a distance, with schools lending laptops and tablets without them. But these devices usually come with monitoring software, which is marketed as a way to protect students and keep them in action. Now, some privacy advocates, parents and teachers say the software has created a new digital divide, limiting what some students can do and increasing the risk of their disciplinary action.

One day last fall, the son of Ramsay Hutman, a fifth-grader in the West Contra Costa School district of California, came up with a problem: he was trying to write a social research report when he kept tabs off in his browser. Whenever he tried to open a new tab for study, it disappeared.

It was no accident. When Hotman emailed the teacher, he said he was told, “Oh, wonder, we have this new software where we can monitor what your child is doing all day and see what they’re seeing and we can all stop We want their tab. “

Hotman soon learned that all of the district’s school-issued devices use security, student-monitoring software that allows teachers to view student screens in real time, and even if they discover any student’s work is off. During class, students were expected to have only two tabs open. Following Hotman’s allegations, the district has extended the boundary to five tabs.

But Hotman says he and other parents would not have chosen school-issued devices if they had known the amount of observation. (“I’m lucky it’s an option for us,” she says.) She’s even more concerned that when monitoring software automatically closes tabs or otherwise penalizes multitasking, it’s hard to build students’ own ability to focus and create discipline.

“As parents, we spend a lot of time helping our kids balance school work and other things,” she says. “Obviously, the Internet is a big confusion, and we are working with them to be able to handle the confusion. If everything is already decided for you, you cannot do it. ”

Ryan Phillips, the school’s communications director, said security features have been created to protect students’ privacy, requiring only district-issued devices, and teachers can only view a student’s computer during school hours. This article did not respond to a request for comment before it was published. After it was initially published, a security spokesman said deputy commissioners could stop seeing the screen, notify students of the product when a class session started, and schools could restrict teachers to start class sessions only during school hours.

In a report earlier this month, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Washington, DC-based tech policy nonprofit, said the software, installed on school-issued computers, was made up of two classes of students. Low-income families were more likely to use school-issued computers, and therefore more likely to be monitored.

“Our guess was that there are certain groups of students, probably those attending low-income schools, who are going to be more dependent on school-issued devices and therefore be subject to more surveillance and tracking than their peers who can basically choose.” Elizabeth Laird, one of the authors of the report, explained.

The report found that black and Hispanic families were more dependent on school devices than their white counterparts and were more likely to express concern about the potential punitive consequences of monitoring software.

The group said monitoring software from companies such as Securely and GoGuardian, ranging from blocking access to adult content and allowing teachers to view certain keywords (words related to pornography, obscenity, suicide, violence, etc.) and change students in real time.

Clarice Brajas, a public school teacher in Philadelphia, is alarmed at the ability to monitor the screen from a distance. The district has issued Chromebooks for eligible students, but he is concerned about the punitive consequences of software monitoring in a district where most students are disobedient and low-income.

“I don’t know what the job of the police as an educator is to see what students are seeing while they’re at home,” he said. “I think it’s family work.”

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