Congress designed CIPA and COPPA to protect children who use the internet. And, while all of their efforts are applauded, the honest truth is, kids are going to do what they can and want to do on the internet because they feel like they can’t be seen by adults.
My district has students and parents sign internet safety agreements at registration. Kids cannot use the internet without having a signed copy on file. And, in school, our filters are super stringent. They cannot even access Youtube under their log in credentials, but can find their way in to music websites. My district files for e-rate funding, so I’m guessing that our user agreement that the parents have to sign covers that requirement. The consent letter has been the same for as long as I’ve worked for my district, which is 18 years.
While walls are a super popular topic in the news, lately, I’d like to draw this wonderful comparison about children finding their ways around firewalls if they want something bad enough. They may not do their homework or read or do math at grade level, but they can hack their ways into off-limit places on the internet. (lol)
I’ve been guilty of this a couple of times… But, it was for the purpose of education. I’ve had students in love with Harry Potter and they wanted to know which House they belonged to. Except, Pottermore has an age requirement… And… I may or may not have told those students to just change their birth year… I know… I know… I’m an Irish Catholic, I’m good with holding on to the guilt…
So, are kids really safe? No way! Neither are adults! This is hilariously appropriate:
I think schools do as much as they can to protect kids in school. But, as we know, there’s no way to always protect them from everything. Even in schools, kids find porn sites, intentionally or unintentionally (recall my whitehouse.com comment), music sites, gaming websites, etc. And, even when they’re supposed to use the school’s internet for academic purposes, a simple browser history will have even the most observant of the most stringent of teacher raise their eyebrows.
Kids lie. They say they’re older than they are for a multitude of reasons: to gain access to websites, post pictures, Tweet, post on Facebook (if they aren’t of the opinion that FB is for old people), to listen to music, etc. It’s impossible to keep them completely safe on the internet, especially if they aren’t being honest or following internet rules. And predators can sniff out the liars and set their traps for them. And that’s terrifying.
As far as data mining and children, I know that a couple sites I’ve used as a teacher, Biblionasium and MobyMax, do not collect information on children. If there’s an accidental info capture, they purge those records as soon as they find the mistake. I’m not sure how they do it, but they state that this is their policy about children under 13 that do not have their parents’ consent. Aside from their names, there’s nothing linking them to their actual identity.