9 Things You Can Do Right Now to Protect Your Kids’ Privacy at School

Teacher in front of a blackboard
Teacher in front of a blackboard


Worried about what happens to all that data your child is generating while in school? There are things you can do to gain more control over what happens to your child’s data. None are as easy as installing an app or changing browser settings, but here’s what you can do now.

Before you start, read this: What Are Schools Doing with Your Kids’ Data?

1. Do your homework.
If the issue of student privacy is new to you, you’ve got a research project on your hands. The U.S. Department of Education has its own site detailing student privacy rules. The Electronic Privacy Information Center maintains a news and information site about student privacy, as do Harvard’s Berkman Center and Common Sense Media. EdSurge, a site sponsored by companies that specialize in educational technology, offers its own guide here.

2. Buttonhole teachers.
Ask your child’s teachers what websites and apps they intend to recommend to their students, what information they collect, and how it’s protected. If they don’t know, then gently suggest that they find out.

3. Quiz administrators.
Find out what data your school is collecting about your child and what if any information you can legally withhold. You probably won’t be able to change district or state policies, but you can certainly make your concerns known.

4. Surf your school’s sites.
Every school has a website, and many have social media accounts. Figure out what information they share. Do they post photos and names of students on the site or tag images in Facebook? Do they share visitor data with third parties? You may want to ask your school to avoid associating a photo of your child with her name.

5. Police the privacy policies.
Reading privacy policies for educational sites and apps ranks with watching paint dry as entertainment, but it’s sadly necessary. You can skip most of the legalese and concentrate on two parts of the policy: what personally identifiable information the site or app collects and whom it shares that information with. Avoid those that say they share data with third-party marketers and/or affiliates. If you can’t find a privacy policy — or the policy doesn’t address those issues — stay far far away.

6. Minimize your data.
Just because someone asks for information on a form doesn’t mean you have to surrender it. You’ll need to ask what data is really required and what is optional, and then carefully weigh how much you’re willing to share. With schools, much of the data will likely be mandatory; with private companies, not so much.

7. Be wary of free services.
If a service or an app is free, you can bet the company that makes it plans to make money by using your data — or your child’s, if he’s 13 or older. That’s why reading privacy policies is a boring yet necessary part of this process. Every company, regardless of pedigree, is legally obligated to follow its published policies, though they could change at any time.

8. Opt out early and often.
If a site or an app gives you the option of declining information sharing, take it. The same goes for schools. For example, you can tell your high school not to share your child’s information with military recruiters, but you’ll need to fill out a form first. However, opting out does mean you’ll have to do more of your own research into colleges and scholarship offers.

9. Contact Congress.
Student privacy is now a big deal in legislative circles, with bills pending in multiple states and at the federal level. Make your voice heard. These days, whoever shouts loudest and longest tends to gain the advantage.

Questions, complaints, kudos? Email Dan Tynan at ModFamily1@yahoo.com.