Personal Stories: School-issued Chromebooks & Harm
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 She became withdrawn from our family, depressed, unmotivated.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?
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