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The 11-year-old has been withdrawn and short-tempered — filled with guilt and shame, crying every day and sleepless, his mother said in an interview.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The parents of the 9-year-old said their son had shown a “profound change” in behavior in recent weeks — anxious, withdrawn and frequently angry.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.”
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:
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.
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.
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 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.
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.”