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Remote learning does not always guarantee your child’s privacy

Crucial for parents to define privacy and security issues for their kids

online learning, kids, privacy

Whatever discomfort parents may experience on-camera during videoconferencing, kids are likely to have it even worse. Students may be uncomfortable about displaying their living space to the class, or they may fear other kids taking screenshots of them to use in cyber-bullying.

Kids should define the online comfort level

Parents can talk to their children and reassure them they have to right to insist on privacy. Consider a role-play so you and your child can practice what to say if feeling uncomfortable on-camera.

Online learning specialist Karen Costa told the New York Times that teachers should not penalize kids by lowering grades if students turn off their cameras. She encourages teachers to make liberal use of the chat box or chat forums and to check in with kids often to make sure they're engaged. Speak to your child's teacher if you find there's a ban on turning off cameras.

Open communication with your child’s teachers

Video communication misses many cues conveyed during in-person conversation, from body language to breathing to comments made in an undertone. If your child is feeling misunderstood, check with the teacher. Amelia Vance of the Future of Privacy Forum says teachers should ask for feedback to make sure they're not misinterpreting children's facial expressions.

Create a safe space for online discussions

Kerry Gallagher of the non-profit suggests setting up a space in the home where the child does not mind revealing the background setting on video. They might want to hang a cloth or cardboard in the space or turn on a digital background.

Review online platform’s privacy policy

Parents can also play a role by making sure schools have thoroughly vetted the online platforms they're using, to prevent intrusions and stealing of data. Passwords should be required for online classes, with private sharing of the password. Ask teachers how they will be keeping track of attendance, engagement, and progress, and how these elements will contribute towards grading.

To determine the security ratings of specific online learning tools, parents may consult several websites, such as Common Sense Media, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Future of Privacy Forum. Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit privacy advocacy group in California, offers an online surveillance self-defense kit.

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