Saturday, March 21, 2015

Protecting the kids

I believe the most important issue with school mandated 1:1 Technology programs is Student Protection.

If you've been following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse you know that the passage of time will judge harshly anyone not monitoring and working to make children as safe as possible.  I have seen some attitudes to monitoring student activity on their school mandated technology which leads me to believe in 20 years time we could be watching a Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to online protection of students. 

My first concern is that school leadership don't fully understand the risks for there to be significant harm delivered by a device mandated or even provided by the school. 

The security of the corporate grade firewall we maintain at school may not even pick up on the patterns and sites which are part of activity and could be of harm to students.  Even worse, those limited protections may not even be there when the device leaves the campus and is used for web browsing at home. 

I have seen many schools with great products deployed to make sure students using their device are always under the watchful eye of child protection software which is being developed and updated constantly to fulfil only one purpose, to make every effort to keep students safe.  The decision to abrogate that responsibility to parents is almost certainly flawed.   We have seen over the last few months students leaving their home country to join extremist organisations and their parents apparently not aware of their radicalisation.  

I worry greatly about the first time a school mandated device is used in the grooming of a young person into a radical movement.  I particularly worry because there are far more important problems the student protection software can help with identifying.  I have seen first hand the ability to use this software to identify and potentially intervene in the circumstance where a student is displaying suicidal tendencies.  There are far more students in need of support than there are those likely to become radicalised.  It's my belief that all parents would gladly pay almost anything for the device to have that protection built in.

I know some schools believe students need to be exposed to some risks and taught how to manage those risks.  I believe this is a risk you should be very clear in discussing with your entire community and ensure they're buying in to the premise of allowing that risk; they also need to be well informed on all aspects of that risk.

Legislative Solution

Student protection has been looked at by many companies with strong solutions available which will work in the background on just about any device.  I believe this type of software should be compulsory on any student device.  It should be mandated that devices used by students, if mandated or even proposed by schools, should be required to meet certain child safety standards. In this case Government has not kept up with the risks.  When the Federal Government instituted the NSSCF it was fantastic to see the acknowledgement that students having 1:1 access to technology was essential in the 21st century.  Unfortunately, at no stage was the impact of take home technology considered as being dangerous for children.