Dirty Dozen List 2021 - Chromebooks

The Problem

MAJOR VICTORY!

In late June 2021, Google announced they are making significant changes to Chromebooks and other products used for K-12 education. Read about those updates going into effect worldwide September 1, 2021.

Original Problem:

Google’s refusal to turn on safety features for Chromebooks distributed to schools has resulted in countless students being left exposed to sexually explicit material and sexual predators on their school-assigned devices. More than 40 million students and teachers worldwide were using these popular devices prior to the pandemic. Millions more received Chromebooks for virtual schooling during COVID-19. Instead of proactively keeping kids safe, this trillion-dollar tech giant chooses to place the burden on overwhelmed schools and parents while leaving children at risk.  

Solution: Google must default filtering and safety tools on Chromebooks for students to enable safe learning environments for online education.

The urgency of COVID-19 and online learning: 

Latest available data has Google Chromebooks in the hands of 40 million students and educators worldwide, with 120 million using G Suite for Education. And these are pre-pandemic figures, before millions more Chromebooks were hastily purchased by schools for online learning during COVID-19.  In fact, it’s been reported that demand for Chromebooks more than doubled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Given Google’s extensive influence in our classrooms, the trillion dollar tech behemoth should be doing everything it can to support schools and parents in prioritizing children’s well-being. This means ensuring the devices they place in the hands of millions of minors are as safe and secure as possible – an even more critical need during virtual schooling.  Yet Google has refused to take simple measures that would significantly reduce kids’ exposure to pornography and predators. For this reason, Google Chromebooks is on the 2021 Dirty Dozen List. 

Google must help schools and parents protect kids by turning on student Chromebook filtering and safety tools as the default.  

Countless children harmed by pornography and predators: 

While better access to technology brings immeasurable benefits, it also brings increased risks. Even prior to the pandemic, we read countless news stories and received personal accounts of children easily accessing harmful material through their school-issued Chromebooks – at school and at home. Now, with overburdened school administrators and overwhelmed teachers and parents trying to navigate new technology tools and the challenges of virtual schooling, devices are often left insufficiently protected: leaving children even more vulnerable to accessing harmful material like pornography and being accessed themselves by predators.  

Read some examples from the past year:   

  • The Washington Post reported this past December on a 9-year-old-boy who accessed hundreds of pornographic sites through his school-issued Chromebook and who has suffered immensely: according to his parents he has shown a “profound change” in behavior in recent weeks — anxious, withdrawn and frequently angry. He does not want to participate in virtual lessons or connect with friends.” 
  • A family reached out to NCOSE about their young son who was groomed and exploited on his school-issued Chromebook, which allowed him to access social media and private browsing.  
  • A mother whose children received Chromebooks through a homeschooling institution shared: My own child was curious and found loopholes in our inadequate system of protections for her … She was groomed by online predators: teaching her how to get a fake credit card to pay for sites, telling her what they wanted to see, and nearly abducting her.  If this happened to my own child, who we love, who is homeschooled by me and we are actively involved in her life, then I can imagine this activity is rampant among the isolated, lonely children of America. 
  • A grandmother wrote to NCOSE that [her] grandson was caught by his mother using a school a Chromebook for pornography and games as well as communicating by email with adult women.  
  • One distraught mother wrote to an advice columnI don’t know what or how much he’s seen [on his school-issued Chromebook], but I do know that some of what he watched was wildly inappropriate and could be described as soft porn…Now I’m worried that he needs therapy (What did he see?!?) […] that his childhood is ruined.   

You can read more personal accounts and news articles here.  

While Google provides measures for parents (through Family Link) and for system-wide subscribers, like schools, to filter and prevent certain content on Google devices and platforms, parents and school IT administrators are often confused by the numerous steps required to turn them on, let alone monitor them. Sometimes schools install certain safety measures and not others – and parents often assume that the devices schools are handing out are completely safe. In other instances, schools lock-down Chromebooks in such a way that parents are unable to make any changes – including activating additional safety features – or they have to proactively contact the school to enable additional security (it took one of our researchers over a month to hear back from her district’s IT department).  

In worst case scenarios, districts don’t have the money for IT personnel or internet filters, teachers and parents are left at the frontlines of figuring out how to use and protect devices…Usually these are the schools that are severely underfunded and are serving the most marginalized populations: vulnerable populations already at disproportionate risk of being exploited that Google is leaving open to even further exploitation (thereby deepening structural racism and economic disparities). 

And not all school internet filters provide adequate protection (if they have filters at all). This means many devices are insufficiently protected at school, to say nothing of when the devices are brought home. And again, marginalized populations may not have the resources, time, education, or language capacity to purchase or install filters or figure out safety controls. As a result, students are using their school-assigned devices to access material like hardcore pornography or are coming across it accidentally. It is often only after an incident of sharing sexually graphic images with other students or suffering negative consequences of pornography exposure, that school administrators and parents realize the systems were not set up correctly.  

  • The Washington Post reported this past December on a 9-year-old-boy who accessed hundreds of pornographic sites through his school-issued Chromebook and who has suffered immensely: according to his parents he has shown a “profound change” in behavior in recent weeks — anxious, withdrawn and frequently angry. He does not want to participate in virtual lessons or connect with friends.” 
  • A family reached out to NCOSE about their young son who was groomed and exploited on his school-issued Chromebook, which allowed him to access social media and private browsing.  
  • A mother whose children received Chromebooks through a homeschooling institution shared: My own child was curious and found loopholes in our inadequate system of protections for her … She was groomed by online predators: teaching her how to get a fake credit card to pay for sites, telling her what they wanted to see, and nearly abducting her.  If this happened to my own child, who we love, who is homeschooled by me and we are actively involved in her life, then I can imagine this activity is rampant among the isolated, lonely children of America. 
  • A grandmother wrote to NCOSE that [her] grandson was caught by his mother using a school a Chromebook for pornography and games as well as communicating by email with adult women.  
  • One distraught mother wrote to an advice columnI don’t know what or how much he’s seen [on his school-issued Chromebook], but I do know that some of what he watched was wildly inappropriate and could be described as soft porn…Now I’m worried that he needs therapy (What did he see?!?) […] that his childhood is ruined.   

You can read more personal accounts and news articles here.  

While Google provides measures for parents (through Family Link) and for system-wide subscribers, like schools, to filter and prevent certain content on Google devices and platforms, parents and school IT administrators are often confused by the numerous steps required to turn them on, let alone monitor them. Sometimes schools install certain safety measures and not others – and parents often assume that the devices schools are handing out are completely safe. In other instances, schools lock-down Chromebooks in such a way that parents are unable to make any changes – including activating additional safety features – or they have to proactively contact the school to enable additional security (it took one of our researchers over a month to hear back from her district’s IT department).  

In worst case scenarios, districts don’t have the money for IT personnel or internet filters, teachers and parents are left at the frontlines of figuring out how to use and protect devices…Usually these are the schools that are severely underfunded and are serving the most marginalized populations: vulnerable populations already at disproportionate risk of being exploited that Google is leaving open to even further exploitation (thereby deepening structural racism and economic disparities). 

And not all school internet filters provide adequate protection (if they have filters at all). This means many devices are insufficiently protected at school, to say nothing of when the devices are brought home. And again, marginalized populations may not have the resources, time, education, or language capacity to purchase or install filters or figure out safety controls. As a result, students are using their school-assigned devices to access material like hardcore pornography or are coming across it accidentally. It is often only after an incident of sharing sexually graphic images with other students or suffering negative consequences of pornography exposure, that school administrators and parents realize the systems were not set up correctly.  

So what specifically can Google do to make Chromebooks safer for students? 

The bottom line is that there is absolutely no reason that Google can’t set safety features as the default for all users of their products, but certainly at a minimum these filters should be enabled on all Google Chromebooks (on the devices themselves and the Chrome operating system) given to K-12 schools. Instead of placing the burden on schools and parents to figure out how to keep their kids safer, let those who want to find pornography and other harmful material navigate the endless number of steps and complicated directions to turn off safety features. It should not be the sole responsibility of schools and parents to figure this out when Google – that is receiving exorbitant amounts of tax dollars in exchange for contracts with school districts and is profiting from pandemic school closures – can so easily make these default settings.  

It’s important to note, some settings are on the Chromebook devices themselves, while others are through the Chrome operating system designed by Google (Chrome OS) – the software on which Chromebooks run. Still others are at the Chrome browser level, the default search engine of Chrome OS.  

Confused yet? You’re not alone – and that’s exactly why we’re asking Google to make their products as safe and secure as possible from the get-go. 

Specifically, we are asking Google default the following on the devices and software used by students:  

  • TURN OFF “Enable Guest browsing” and TURN ON “Restrict sign-in(Chromebook device-level setting) 

Guest browsing is exactly as it sounds. It allows anyone – including your child – sign into the Chromebook with a different Gmail account. Chromebooks don’t keep the web history for guest browsing, therefore making it easier to hide web activity. “Restrict sign-in” should be defaulted to ‘on’ to again prevent any random Gmail addresses from being used on the device (note, if you are a parent creating a Family Link, you’ll need to “restrict sing-in” off until you pair your account to your child’s) 

  • SET SAFESEARCH AS DEFAULT (Chrome browser) 

SafeSearch is an effective filtering tool thatwhen a user or administrator turns it on, blocks most pornographic and explicit images, videos, and websites from Google Search results. We’re pleased that Google eventually placed the SafeSearch feature in more prominent, easier-to-find places in Google Images as we have asked them to do for years. However, we’d still like to see this option at the top Google Search and other search pages (e.g. “Videos” “News”) before a search is made. Unless a user proactively chooses this option in “Search Settings” before conducting a search, the SafeSearch button will not appear at the top level until a search has already been made. In other words, your screen (or your kid’s) may be covered with pornography before you even see the option to turn on “SafeSearch.”  

  • Disallow “INCOGNITO” MODE (in Chrome browser) 

Incognito mode in Google Chrome lets the user open a special browser window that won’t store a search or browser historyWe ask that Google create a clear way to disallow and lock incognito mode so kids can’t use it. Many minors know about this option (YouTube videos abound on how to access incognito mode on school-issued Chromebooks), so it’s critical schools and parents understand this option exists and have a way of disabling it. Luckily, if you’re set up with Family Link, your kids can’t use “incognito.” 

  • Fix SHARED DOCUMENT feature in G Suite for Education and Google Workspace (Formerly G Suite) 

Our ally Protect Young Minds alerted us to a very problematic feature that is not only frustrating to many adult users, but potentially dangerous for minors. If someone has your child’s email, they can share a document that will automatically be added to your child’s Google Drive. There is no request for permission to add and – even worse – it seems there is no way to delete it (or the way to do that is not easy to find). Furthermore, it could be used by predators to groom children as the document can serve as a means to “chat” with each other. One of our researchers tested this function with ther children’s school-issued laptop. She sent a document titled “kittens” which her children immediately opened. She chatted with them using this shared document. Unlike personal email addresses, most school-issued student emails follow a consistent format throughout the district. It wouldn’t be hard for a predator to very easily access a child this way just knowing first and last name. 

Not specific to Chromebooks, but an additional change we’d like to see is: 

  • RESTRICTED MODE ON YOUTUBE AS DEFAULT 

Restricted Mode is a YouTube filtering tool for YouTube to block explicit videos. Again, while we wish YouTube would default “Restricted Mode” for YouTube, it currently needs to be turned on and should be done so through Chrome OS or any available browser on student Chromebooks. We recommend that YouTube is completely blocked for elementary school kids, who can use YouTubeKids instead. (Family Link doesn’t allow kids until 13 to access YouTube). 

We know Google can make positive changes because they’ve done so. In August 2020 they made it possible for Family Link to add a school account. Earlier in spring 2020, after years of NCOSE pressure, the tech giant significantly reduced the extensive amount of pornography that populated basic searches unrelated to sex – including by students doing research. 

Of course, none of the above measures are foolproof. Kids are super savvy about bypassing safety features and filters – Reddit, Youtube, and Quora have countless tutorials by kids for kids on how to unlock school-issued devices and bypass parenting controls. Schools and families need to be monitoring their kids’ online activity, ensuring their online safety, and having ongoing conversations with them about the harms of pornography. But we need help from the major corporations, like Google, to make it harder …not easier…for kids to access harmful material. 

Demand digital safety in schools. Demand Google “do the right thing” and default safety tools and filters.  

WARNING: Any pornographic images have been blurred, but are still suggestive. There may also be graphic text descriptions shown in these sections.
POSSIBLE TRIGGER.

Proof

Porn Spamming

Porn Spamming

Strangers are Spamming Google Drive with Pornography, and There’s No Way for Users to Stop It 

The Google Drive Help forum is filled with complaints about pornography spam from unknown users. There’s no way for individuals to block files sent from those not in their contacts, and the files go directly to their Google Drive without so much as a click. Even worse, this can happen to children (thank you to Protect Young Minds for alerting us to this problem). 

 

Google Drive Help Posts  

 

 

Original Post: 

Is there a way to stop getting all these porn spam links that are sending to my drive.  

63 Replies 

I keep getting lots of these damn porn site sending to my Google drive. I have a few emails but this only sending to just one email. How can I change the settings or put a stop to this. Don't tell me there isn't a way cause it only one email that is getting these damn site links in my Google drive. I don't get any in any of the other email drives. I am at the point to fully deleting this email but I had it a long time and have many things link to it. I already deleted all the ones for today. But I get at least three to five every day.  I WANT THESE STOPPED. I shouldn't have to delete and report five 

Replies: 

6/24/20 

Same here. Every single day. Following because I've tried blocking, reporting, removing, & they keep on coming. I don't know what else to do besides delete my Google account 🙁 

 

6/29/20 

Yes delete my google acount 

 

6/30/20 

same here. I have reported and emailed google help. this is a huge issue. this isnt an email its a cloud storage. I use it for my family and college info and have for years. I really dont want to have to make a new accoutn 

 

7/15/20 

I've had Google Drive for years, and only in the last month or two started getting these porn spam PDFs shared to me. It's only been two so far, but it's extremely aggravating, and from what others are sharing, I doubt I've seen the last of it. There has to be a way to stop/block this kind of thing. I had no idea I could receive anything via Google Drive from someone I didn't know until this happened. I'm heavily invested in all things Google, but this may prompt a family reevaluation. This is unacceptable. 

7/16/20 

There is no way to block these getting shared to you, and google has known about the problem for years and never done anything to fix it.  I get them in waves - a new wave started a couple days ago, incredibly annoying, especially since the only way to report it - is to actually click on it and have see it, yuck! 

 

7/19/20 

It is disgusting. I have no idea how I got on some list or came to someone's attention to start getting these porn files - but like others it's every single day, sometimes 2 or 3. I report every single one and other than an automated email saying that Google received my report - nothing happens to stop it. It's obvious that Google just doesn't care or is getting something from this. Surely they could come up with a system to allow us to block them if they wanted to. 

 

7/19/20 

Same here at least 4/per day on 2 seperate google accounts. 

 

More Original Posts: 

Spam shared with me on Drive 5-10 times a day   

0 Replies 

I have been recieving a lot of spam shared with me on Google drive that violates Google's policy on spam and nudity. It happens several times a day. I report it whenever I can. Is there any way I can stop people from sharing documents with me? I no longer want people to be able to share documents with me, it's only spam and it comes often. I don't want to have to delete my whole google account. Please help. 

 

How to block spam from Google Drive?  

31 Replies 

I keep getting "hey baby" porn spam files shared with me on Google drive. I report them and they keep coming. I see people have been complaining about this for years and you all have done nothing. This is extremely frustrating and embarrassing!!! What can I do to stop this? 

 

I need to stop all these porn, spam messages... i deleted them, reported as spam etc. nothing works  

0 Replies 

I need help stopping all these porn messages, spam, files ...I keep deleting,  reported as spam and notjing works... they keep coming 

Google Drive Spam, is there any fixes a year later?   

2 Replies 

I am receiving lots of shared "unsolicited porn" docs to my google drive. Why can I not have an option to accept shared documents? I'm seeing a nude preview each time. This issue is well known and documented on the community for years. What if this happens to my under age child and you Google allows nude images to be shared with underage children? Just wondering? 

How do i delete unwanted pornographic images of my recent?   

0 Replies 

I stupidly clicked on a link which was posted in a group chat not knowing what it was and i instantly clicked off of it. Unfortunately days later I was left with hundreds of pornographic images on my recent. There is no delete button and I cannot move these to my trash. 

I have been in contact with google to try and solve this and have not got anywhere. I have reported each one of them as i was told they would be removed but that did nothing... 

I cant believe that i am still having this issue. How can google (one of the worlds biggest tech firms) struggle to sort this problem out? I am absolutely baffled?? 

Please may someone help or point me in the direction of someone who can?

Chromebooks & Harm

In The News: School-issued Chromebooks & Harm

 COMPLAINT ALLEGES CHILDREN DISCOVERED PORNOGRAPHY WHILE BROWSING ON SCHOOL-ISSUED LAPTOPS  

As reported by the Washington Post on November 25, 2020: 

Two families in suburban Maryland called on the state’s largest school system to warm other parents when their third-grader and a sixth-grader accessed graphic material online with their Chromebook computers.: 

The family was devastated, the boy’s father said in an interview. He described the material as graphic depictions of sex acts, accessed over a period of a month and a half. “He’s a little boy, and he saw things that no one should see, especially a child,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to protect his son’s privacy. 

“One of the most painful parts about it is that he was sitting a few feet away from us,” he added. “We were checking on him — not once a day, not twice a day but a dozen times a day.” 

[…] 

Both students have struggled emotionally, their families said. 

The 11-year-old has been withdrawn and short-tempered — filled with guilt and shame, crying every day and sleepless, his mother said in an interview. He had not had sex education at school yet, she said. He starts therapy next week, 

“I just felt like his innocence has been stolen,” said his mother, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her son’s privacy. “The whole time, I thought: ‘It’s a school computer. What harm could it be?’ ” 

The family said other 11-year-olds are sharing information about the websites. 

The parents of the 9-year-old said their son had shown a “profound change” in behavior in recent weeks — anxious, withdrawn and frequently angry. He does not want to participate in virtual lessons or connect with friends, they said. 

“We wanted other parents to know about the risk,” said the boy’s father. He said the family also wanted the school system to address the problem and not deny it. 

“It’s all very distressing,” the father said. “This happened because he was using the school-issued Chromebook, which we thought was safe. It felt like such a betrayal.” 

 

I Think Online School Has Accidentally Introduced My 8-Year-Old to Porn 

Concerned Mom in Slate Advice Column on December 25, 2020 

I don’t know what or how much he’s seen [on his school-issued Chromebook], but I do know that some of what he watched was wildly inappropriate and could be described as soft porn…Now I’m worried that he needs therapy (What did he see?!?) that he will turn into a sexual predator toward his toddler sister, and that his childhood is ruined. Do you have any advice?  

NCOSE Note: Some readers may brush off this mother’s concerns as an over-reaction – and indeed the “advice” columnist did. However, experts are witnessing growing amount of child-on-child sexual abuse that is frequently linked to pornography exposure: kids acting out on other kids based on what they have viewed. We also know that many, many children (and adults!) have had to seek therapy due to pornography exposure which is so often extremely violent, racist, and degrading. These mother’s fears are not unfounded – Google could help prevent these unnecessary anxieties and potentially lifelong consequences.] 

 

Internet filters catch student downloading obscene material on school laptop 

Fox 8, August 21, 2020: 

THOMASVILLE, N.C. — A Thomasville City Schools student downloaded inappropriate images on a school-issued laptop and was caught by internet filters. 

“Our Chromebooks have an additional layer of websites that we’ve identified that may not be identified in that act as problematic, possible spam, possible pornography,” Campbell said.  

“I think any time that our kids have access to the internet we have to be diligent to be observing what’s going on. Anything can happen,” parent Courtney Willis said. 

NCOSE Note: This is a positive instance where an internet filter was in place and the school was proactively monitoring student’s use. Unfortunately, not all schools have filters – or adequate filters. And as the article states, schools that receive federal funding are required to have an online filter, not all schools apply for federal funding or keep their filters updated. 

 

Prior to 2020:

3rd grade students access pornography at Jacksonville elementary school

An alleged loophole in a Jacksonville elementary school's firewall allowed children the opportunity to watch pornographic videos in the classroom.

They said they were made aware of the situation weeks later by a concerned staff member.

"This is XXX, pornographic, adult material," the mother explained. "This is not appropriate for the school, it's not appropriate for any classroom, this is not appropriate for an 8-year-old child.”

Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District said two male students found a loophole on Google Chrome in their Chromebooks. They accessed the pornography while another student looked at it as well.

NCOSE Analysis: Not only does the school need to have adequate filters on the school WiFi, but the devices also need to have controls in place. Regularly, schools think that it is enough to simply have the WiFi protected, yet these kinds of loopholes are regularly used by students. In addition, schools are increasingly allowing students to take home school-issued devices to use outside of school grounds. Unfortunately, the devices are often not adequately protected with even the built-in safety tools, frequently because the schools do not know how to do this. Google could easily make these devices safer and take the burden off of the parents and schools to figure out the complicated process of turning on controls.

 

 

Parent: Porn found on Bay County district-issued laptop

The mother of a Surfside Middle School student was shocked this week to discover her daughter was accessing what she described as “pornographic” websites using a district-issued Chromebook.

Iesha Sparks said she found an index card in her daughter’s belongings with search terms students could use on YouTube to find the inappropriate videos, along with a website where more material could be found. Sparks said she brought up the website on her daughter’s Chromebook and that it wasn’t blocked by the district’s firewalls. She said she then reviewed her daughter’s browsing history and found she had been spending time on the site.

“It made me want to throw up,” Sparks said.

The district began an initiative last month that would give every middle school student a Chromebook to use in school and take home for school work. Surfside and Jinks middle schools were chosen for the pilot program. District officials said the Chromebooks came with the same internet filters available on the school’s internet and that those filters would carry into the home, blocking websites with inappropriate content. Sparks said she believed the filters would protect her daughter from those websites and that she wouldn’t need to supervise her use. She’s angry at the district, she said, and her daughter’s innocence is “gone.”

“They said it was safe,” she said. “They assured us that they couldn’t get on stuff like this.”

...

Chip Shows, director of management information systems for the district, said the sites were able to skirt the district’s firewall because they didn’t contain any of the keywords that would trigger the filters. YouTube, he said, is all or nothing, and teachers use it in the classroom for lessons. The other website, e621.net, didn’t contain any outright inappropriate material on its landing page. Instead, he said, the website was a gateway to access the inappropriate videos, which they could do by logging in. Once he became aware of the website and that students were using it, Shows said the site was blocked immediately.

 

 

 

Security in place on school Chromebooks after mom says son saw 'murder video'

The Ridgewood school district is defending their safeguards after a parent reported her 8-year-old son viewed inappropriate material on a school laptop while he was in school.

Parent Candace Young told the Board of Education that her son viewed a “sexual bloody murder video” on a schoolmate's Chromebook.

“This is extremely serious, you can’t take something back like that,” Young said at the Monday meeting.

...

She added that another parent told her that her child watched a “suicide video” on the school Chromebook, and that students could “access porn and play video games that are not part of the curricula” at home.

 

 

 

Union County students use school computers to access porn

Union County parents are furious after learning their children accessed pornography on their school-issued laptops in class.

A mother called Channel 9 after two separate incidents at Parkwood Middle School, in Monroe, last week.

The mother, who did not want to be identified, said her 11-year-old son watched as another student pulled up hardcore pornography on his Chromebook during class.

"He was in tears. He said it was disgusting, and he wished he could unsee it," the mother said.

The mother said a few days later, her son saw it happen again amidst a group of students looking at the porn on a Chromebook in the school cafeteria.

The mother said when she went to school officials, they told her the students are very smart, they'll get around anything they do, and all they can do as a school is monitor it the best they can.

 

 

 

West Richland parents say school computer porn filter not good enough

Lora and Colton Brady are serious about monitoring their children’s Internet use.

To access their home computer, the kids need to find a parent to unlock the computer, and then the Bradys keep an eye on what they are looking at through the glass door of their home office.

So when their 12-year-old son approached them with a picture of a scantily clad woman on his Richland School District Chromebook, they were concerned.

They discovered it was possible to use the Google image search on the laptop to find a bevy of women in various states of undress, and at least a few wearing no clothing at all.

“Then if you click on ‘view more,’ more and more just comes up,” she said. “They can jump from picture to picture to picture, and the deeper you go the worse it gets.”

Libby Middle School, where their son attends, is the first Tri-City school to provide each student with a laptop to take home. Two of the other Richland middle schools are expected to hand Chromebooks to their students before the end of the year.

The Bradys want the district to improve its filtering system.

“I was thinking maybe once or twice something might pop up on his Chromebook,” Lora Brady said. “We’re not talking about one or two things slipping through once in awhile.”

Personal Stories

Personal Stories: School-issued Chromebooks & Harm

Stories Shared with NCOSE 

A family recently reached out to NCOSE sharing their tragic story of their 9-year-old-girl who started to change a few months after receiving a Chromebook from school. She became withdrawn, depressed, unmotivated, and angry. The family thought it was maybe just a phase—until one night the mother opened her daughter’s bedroom door in the middle of the night to find her watching hardcore pornography on her school device. For months, this little 9-year-old girl had been watching pornography for hours most nights; her family had no idea. The secret behavior broke this innocent girl down. She reported to her parents through tears just how horrific the content she had seen was and how she felt she couldn’t stop herself. 

 

***************** 

 

The family of a young boy reached out to NCOSE when their son was groomed and exploited on his school-issued Chromebook, which allowed him to access social media and private browsing. 

 

****************** 

My children have been homeschooled through a charter school. We’ve received Chromebooks through that institution for educational purposes for years.  Many schools have increasingly been handing out Chromebooks to students for years.  In the wake of this 2020 pandemic, every school aged child has a chrome book in their hand.  Are schools providing protections and monitoring on these devices?  In our experience- no.  
 

I had assumed since they came from the school, their IT dept was monitoring the use, that protections had been built in to these windows into the World Wide Web.  No.  There was nothing  to protect my children there.  In fact, chromebooks have a little something called an Incognito Window built right in, enticing anyone to explore without any one ever knowing where they had been.  You know the dangers.  You are aware of the possibilities. 

Now imagine for a moment.  Millions of isolated, lonely school children.  Their parents have gone back to work, or are in their home offices, busy working their jobs from home.  No one is paying attention.  No one is moderating.  And I know from experience: our children are being preyed upon.  

My own child was curious and found loopholes in our inadequate system of protections for her.  She became addicted to porn, and started seeking out more connection.  She was groomed by online predators: teaching her how to get a fake credit card to pay for sties, telling her what they wanted to see, and nearly abducting her.  If this happened to my own child, who we love, who is homeschooled by me and we are actively involved in her life, then I can imagine this activity is rampant among the isolated, lonely children of America.  

What is being done to protect our kids?  What is the school’s responsibility for putting these loaded weapons against our children right into into their hands?  I have read your reports, and I know you’re aware. I have signed the petitions and sent letters to my senators.  What else can we do to bring about change?  

- A mother from California 

 

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Last year my grandson was caught by his mother using school Chromebook for pornography and games as well as communicating by email with adult women. During the 8 hours of a school day he was on these sites for 7 hours. How does this happen? He should be getting classroom education. Obviously not!! His mother addressed with the school and nothing was done. She then had to take chrome book away. This year out of the 2 days at school he is on the chrome book all day again. Where are the teachers and filters for these Chromebooks? They CAN filter so that kids cannot get to sites!! Bring back paper education. They are ruining our kids!!!! Now this is an addiction caused by school chrome books. It needs to be taken care of immediately!!! 

  • Bland County, VA 

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Can someone help me please? Please please please 

Guys I really need help. So I was looking for a site on my school Chromebook and I clicked on a link saying it had it (yes, I know, totally stupid move) and it took me to a porn website. The school lets me clear history but they can still see it after I clear it. I really don't wanna get in trouble because it was unintentional and I'm already in trouble with my parents, So does anyone know how to completely delete search history? 

  • Teen subreddit 

 

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Looked up porn accidentally on my Chromebook 

So in Spanish class my friend and I were on a website where you could type in a URL and it’d bring you to the website. This included blocked websites. So my friend was like “go to 4chan” we’ve never been to 4Chan before and I typed in www4chancom. And it brings me to a porn website. So now I’ve got “free live webcams” in my search history. Yay. 

3 months ago 

Bigger issue is that your school allows guest mode. Your school admin should not be allowing. 

1 month ago 

Just for interest: Why? What's wrong 'bout Guest mode? 

16 days ago 

kids can easily look up porn or something 

  • Teen subreddit 

 

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I might get in trouble for being horny while on the school Chromebook 

So the school gave me the City Chromebook so that I can do my work from home like most of you probably so naturally as you do at 4 a.m. on Twitter. I wanted to beat my dick until my left leg went numb. So I quickly find some of the earth's finest Twitter porn. After I finish I start looking around the settings and to my surprise I can't delete my history there is some black magic fuckiry going on cleared all I could but no matter what you type in that p in the search bar and pandora's box opens up read that it's possible for them to the history but fuck it I'll go down like that best nut in a while 

  • Teen subreddit 

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Struggling with students bypassing firewall 

We are using CipaFilter in my district. We have remote management set up and proxy set up to direct all traffic through the firewall. They are going to porn sites and all of it seems to be working. We don't think they are using a VPN or proxy server as they are heavily managed Chromebooks and they are going directly to the porn sites URL and it seems to be working. But Cipa doesn't show that traffic or the violations anywhere. Is there some security measure we are missing? When trying to access the sites in a controlled environment on my personal phones hotspot using the students account and machine. It is blocked as expected. 

Has anyone else had problems with students bypassing the filters? What are you doing to stop it? 

  • IT Administrator subreddit 

 

 

 

 

Prior to 2020:

Our elementary school gave Chromebooks to K-5 graders and the 3-5th graders are able to take their Chromebooks home with them. The Principal assured us that the devices would be secure both at the school and if used elsewhere and that kids would not be able to access inappropriate websites. When my neighbor's son brought his computer home, his mom and I looked over it. A simple search in Google Images with a pornographic term yielded lots of porn pictures. The device didn't even have the built-in controls turned on. We asked the Principal about it and he said that must have been the only one with that problem as he was assured that the devices were secure off of school grounds. We then asked a few other parents to look at their kids' devices and they found the same thing. They were completely unlocked and open to bringing up everything at least in Google Images. Our school is looking into the problem now. We are furious though!

  • B Family, VA

 

 

 

My daughter's teacher instructed her students to use their Chromebooks to look up YouTube videos about Latin American culture. The kids got into small groups and looked things up. My daughter's group landed on videos with women dancing and in the middle of one of the videos, the dancers took off their clothes and were fully nude. After laughs, the teacher realized what they were looking at and turned it off. The teacher and the school never told any of the parents. We only know because my daughter and another student explained what happened to us. YouTube is not a safe environment for the classroom or for kids to be unsupervised. This teacher was completely untrained and claimed she had no idea such content was available on YouTube. They told us that they can't block content within YouTube -- that it is all or nothing. Why are we giving kids access to this stuff at school? Can't we create a better learning environment??

  • Sara, OK

 

 

 

Our school district has been bragging about giving every student their very own Chromebook, touting what a wonderful educational opportunity this is for our kids. I agreed, too...

About 6 months after getting her own school-issued device, my daughter started to change though. She became withdrawn from our family, depressed, unmotivated. Everything seemed to make her angry. Her language to all in our home because harsh and bitter. We thought perhaps it was just a new phase. But, a couple of weeks ago, I opened her bedroom door to check on her in the middle of the night and she was in bed watching pornography on her school Chromebook. I'll be honest. My immediate reaction wasn't good. The next day when my husband and I sat down with her to talk about this, she crumbled into our laps in tears. Our nine-year-old little girl has been watching pornography for hours most nights for months now and we had no idea.  She talked about horrors she has seen and worries she is going to have to do the same things. She talked about how she feels bad sometimes watching it but that she cannot stop herself.

...

I brought this up to the school and they essentially said that we were responsible for filtering our home Internet and it wasn't their fault even though it was a device given to her by them. I thought the device was protected.

I have failed her in so many ways. What do we do now? How many other families are experiencing this too?

  • Kathryn, VA

 

 

 

I do not want my 6th grader to have a Chromebook unless the district adds strict restrictions on all the devices. I have volunteered at my son's 5th-grade library and I saw kids on totally inappropriate pages. I asked the librarian about controls and he said they have none. They trust the kids to make good choices? Really- my 7th grader was caught on a porn site at his school's computer lab. He told us all his friends go on these pages. So what are the restrictions that will prevent my son from visiting porn sites or getting into other things with something the school now issues to him?

  • E.A.

 

 

 

Four of my 9yo female students were briefly exposed to a graphic anal sex gif that had been left loaded on a Chromebook. They were all quite traumatised and the school and department have launched a thorough investigation. However what that investigation has so far revealed is really disturbing, as the knowledge required to circumvent the school internet filters and the steps taken to cover their tracks suggest it may have been done deliberately and possibly by an adult. As a victim of child sexual abuse, I now can't get this thought out of my head. Listening to one of the parents sobbing for 5 minutes when they realised what their child had seen was absolutely heartbreaking. I'm not anti porn, but today's porn is so graphic and aggressive it horrifies me that their innocence has been ripped away. Even more so when realising that one had been exposed to porn by an older sibling and another at a former school.

  • Teacher commenting on Reddit

 

 

 

Every kid was going to get a Chromebook and they would be protected by state of the art filters, there was no way we would have a problem. This year our son started 6th grade and while this middle school had major porn problems last year, we were assured that it was all fixed, or so they said. Back in November a friend of mine, told me that her son was exposed to porn in class. I immediately grabbed my son's Chromebook and started digging, but then I decided to ask our son, so at 9:30pm I pulled my son out of bed and asked him if he had seen any porn on his Chromebook or at school, I was sure that his answer would be no. Instead I heard the words that I had spent many hours working and chatting with him in hopes that I would never hear, “Yes” came his reply.

It turns out that despite being told to log out of his Chromebook when he leaves it, he went to the bathroom and left it open. When he returned there was pornography on his Chromebook, embarrassed, he closed it out and didn’t tell a soul. When I asked why he didn’t tell me or a teacher his reply was heart breaking, “Because I knew that I could get into trouble for something I didn’t do.” He has since seen countless scantily clad people in the side ad bars of his Chromebook. He has also seen ads condoning the use of marijuana.

What are we doing to our children? Why didn’t we have a plan in place before we handed out hundreds of Chromebooks? This was a bad idea. If the filters are so great and if [IT] people are monitoring the kid’s usage, as the school claims, then why has no one ever talked to my son about his incident with porn, or what about my friend’s son? They are doing nothing at that school to protect our children. If we buy our own Chromebook and put on our own filters on it, the school district's system overrides any protections that we put into place, we can’t keep the filth away from our children.

  • Mother of student with special needs, WA
Children's Internet Protection Act

Are Schools Compliant with the Children's Internet Protection Act

The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was enacted by Congress in 2000 to address concerns about children's access to obscene or harmful content over the Internet. CIPA imposes certain requirements on schools or libraries that receive discounts for Internet access or internal connections through the E-rate program – a program that makes certain communications services and products more affordable for eligible schools and libraries.

Currently, schools must only show compliance with CIPA once, at the time they initially apply the federal E-rate funding. There is little follow up with schools who are receiving billions of tax-dollar funds, to ensure that they are still compliant with CIPA and are providing adequate filters on school WiFi and school-assigned devices.

More information coming soon.