In the end, it’s a matter of balance…

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

When I was going through the essential readings of the 3rd week, I found interesting topics like protecting data of students and teachers, safety on the internet, your digital identity and the business of data. We all have a role if we are involved in education but also the government in every country. As the additional readings were connected to issues that most of us faced as parents, I will also talk about ‘sharenting’.

After 2011, librarians around the world were worried about ‘The USA Patriot Act’ that allows the American government to access to the data of the patrons of any library and librarians were not allow to inform their users about it. As you can imagine, the American Library Association(ALA) protested and organized rallies around the US.

Wayne Wiegand published an article summarising the events at ‘Baseless hysteria? ALA’s opposition to section 215 of the USA Patriot Act‘ in 2016. I remember how librarians around the world, stood up supporting the American librarians on this journey to protect their patron’s data. Some questions were critical on those days: Are we what we read? Can we judge a library user by his/her readings? On those days, I was working as a ‘Circulation system librarian’ at my university ‘Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru’, and we had many talks about it. We all agreed that we cannot judge a student, teacher or just anybody by their readings because there are different reasons to do it. It can be readings as a part of a course, academic research, personal research, curiosity, etc: it’s just freedom to read! And, we believed that delete the data was the best option to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the library patrons.

Video by ‘The librarians who battled the Patriot act’ on Youtube.

After many years, we are facing the same concerns on different scenarios: how to protect our students and teachers’ data and, how our values as a society and as a person are reflected on our actions. When I was reading ‘Confronting the challenging of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century’ by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, it confirmed my thoughts about our responsibility as educators about media literacy. But also confirmed the involvement and the shared responsibility of parents on this journey. As mention ‘ Any attempt to provide media education in the age participatory culture must begin by addressing these 3 concerns: the participation gap, the transparency problem, and the ethics challenge’

  1. The participation gap: it refers to equal access to the internet and the effects/benefits into a society. Also, how closing the digital gap depends more on developing skills than technology.
  2. The transparency problem: How the structure of the video games rules can influence our perception of reality?. What are we taking away from them? Therefore, the concept of credibility for teenagers. How are attracted to the designs and formats more than the content? How algorithms are used to orient advertising according to their preferences online? In my opinion, this is a very serious point. We are finding different questionable business practices. But, also my concerns go to the psychological effect of video games on teenagers. How to guide teenagers on their cruise to find a balance? What can we do as parents? What can we do as educators?
  3. The ethics challenge: How to make teenagers reflect on their actions/comments online? How can those actions impact their future or affect others? Do they know the concept of ethics? Values? Why the role of parents sharing and nurturing values at home is important?

We are part of this participatory culture and we all have responsibilities as parents or educators. What do you think? Can we leave teens ‘laissez-faire’?

About safety and privacy

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I can identify three main levels of authority that shall be concern about the privacy and confidentiality of students and teachers data: the government, the schools’ leaders and families.

At the level of government, there are countries like the USA that have taken care of the problem through their Department of Education and they have published different acts like:

FERPA: Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

COPPA: Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act

SOPIPA: Student Online Personal Information Protection Act

PPRA: Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment

But systems are not perfect, as I could find it out while reading ‘The Educator toolkit for teacher and students privacy: a practical guide for protecting personal data’. The data generated by students and teachers is valuable but on the wrong hands can be manipulated and commercialized. So, How can we introduce more technology in the classroom, if famous software/Apps are having the rights of our data? Is enough just reading the TOS or it shall also be regulated by the government? What’s the breaking point between business and ethics in technology and education?

I’m living in India for some years and I was looking for information about any policy about privacy and data protection. I found that the government just approved ‘The personal data protection bill’ as it’s mention in the article ‘The Personal Protection Bill 2018: An answer to Indian data protection issues? written by Supratim Chakraborty and Aditi Roy Chowdary. They state “The Bill has recognized the need to provide special protection to the personal data of children below the age of 18 years in a manner “that protects and advances the rights and best interests of the child”. However, though it mandates that “appropriate mechanisms” should be implemented for age verification and parental consent, it has not prescribed any quantifiable threshold for defining such “appropriate mechanisms”, they say. “Further, while “consent” which is free, informed, specific, clear and capable of being withdrawn has been recognized as a ground for processing personal data, the manner of obtaining such specific consent has not been elucidated upon in the Bill. The Bill recognizes the need for having a reporting mechanism for breach of personal data but has not prescribed a comprehensive mechanism for reporting such breach. ” At this point, we have to recognize that it’s a step forward towards protecting students data. I hope that they won’t take too long to debate and take action on topics more specifically related to digital education, digital footprints and media literacy in Indian education. Actually, we can find online places that sell students data (schools and universities). Here are some links to related articles: Owners of three IT firms arrested for leaking, selling students data online, Personal and academic data of millions of Indian students is up for sale online.

At the level of schools authorities, it’s important to have a social media policy that includes topics like: digital footprints, ethics and behaviour online as a member of the school community. In my school, students photos or any other internal information can not be published on social media. Only the official channels are allow to do it.

At the level of families, as parents we should be proactive finding out the Apps and softwares used in the classrooms and request further information about the personal data of the students. Also, support teachers to develop the sense of responsibility and reflection on the students about the participation on the digital world. Become a digital citizen, it’s not a one day job, it’s a journey.

All the readings give me many reasons to think and wonder about our role as educator and parents. The article about ‘sharenting’ was a touché to me. I was that kind of mother that use to post my daughters’ pictures on social media. All this time, they didn’t care. Until two years back that I notice that they didn’t like it, so I stopped it. Now, I ask them before posting their pics but I hardly do it. Why I did it before? Most of my reasons are emotional: away from home last 14 years so my family and friends could see them, happiness, milestone events and trips.

These are not easy days for us, educators and parents, to guide teenagers on their interaction with social media and create awareness to become responsible digital citizens. It’s a challenge. How are you helping?

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