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 She became withdrawn, depressed, unmotivated, and angry.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
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
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
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.
Bigger issue is that your school allows guest mode. Your school admin should not be allowing.
Just for interest: Why? What’s wrong ’bout Guest mode?
kids can easily look up porn or something
- Teen subreddit
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
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?
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