Prying Eyes? Home Use of School Laptops Raises Privacy Concerns

Prying Eyes? Home Use of School Laptops Raises Privacy Concerns

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School-issued laptops and tablets used by students during the pandemic put some at risk of disciplinary action due to their home activity in addition to limiting how they could use the devices.

Parents, privacy advocates and teachers shared concerns they have about monitoring software that’s typically installed on the devices prior to disbursement. Some programs allow teachers to see a student’s screen in real-time and close tabs if they find a student is off-task, according to Wired.

Clarice Brazas, a Philadelphia public school teacher, is alarmed by that capability. 

“I don’t know that it’s my job as an educator to police what content students are looking at when they’re at home,” said Brazas, adding, “I consider that the family’s job.”

She said there was not a consistent approach to policing students’ online activity. 

Disciplining students for the content they view at home has been handled on a case-by-case basis, which could unfairly harm students of color. Since lower-income students were more likely to use the school-issued devices, they were also more likely to be monitored, according to a report from the Center for Democracy and Technology.

“We know that when kids face any sort of disciplinary action and they’re Black or Brown, they’re more likely to have escalated discipline because of that,” said Brazas.

Elizabeth Laird of the Center for Democracy and Technology said the monitoring software impacts what students won’t see or search for because they know they’re being watched. 

“When you think about this happening in an educational environment where you want students to express themselves, you want students to be learning, you want students to feel free to make mistakes, that response raises questions about whether this will actually undermine the whole purpose of education,” said Laird.