At the state level, the California Senate Judiciary Committee amended and advanced the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, a bill modeled after the United Kingdom’s Age Appropriate Design Code (AADC) that aims to regulate the collection, processing, storage, and transfer of children’s data. My colleagues Chloe Altieri and Kewa Jiang analyze the bill in this blog post, and WIRED details how it and a number of other legislative proposals aim to mitigate the impact of social media on young people’s mental health. We expect additional developments soon - California lawmakers have mere weeks to move the bill forward before the end of this legislative session.
One example of why strong default privacy protections for kids are important: a new report by FairPlay,
News You Can Use: Kids, Technology, and Privacy Edition
The Washington Post dove into a new study about the data practices of some of the most popular apps among kids. The conclusion? “Apps are spying on our kids at a scale that should shock you.” The report, authored by Pixalate, identifies the 1,000 most popular mobile apps that appear to be child-directed, and attempts to analyze how those apps handle sensitive data. The study alleges, among other things, that more than two-thirds of the apps shared location data with advertisers. Another big takeaway from the report: Pixalate has developed a methodology that attempts to infer when an app is child-directed, raising questions about the extent to which leading apps are, in fact, not directed to children.
A few other updates that may be of particular interest to parents: Following the release of a Human Rights Watch report earlier this year on the alleged data collection practices of remote learning apps, The Washington Post breaks down how to evaluate the privacy practices and policies of these types of apps for yourself. And the Electronic Frontier Foundation is raising alarm about “dangerously insecure” daycare apps.
Last but not least: if you are concerned about the time your children are spending online, you are not alone, two new surveys show. PC Mag’s latest Tech Parenting survey
found that 66% of parents are either somewhat or very concerned about the effects of technology on their child; a survey by Trusted Future
found that more than 75% of parents were concerned about protecting their family’s digital privacy.
The Latest on the Parental Rights Movement
Gender transitions at school have become “the high-wire act of gender-inclusive practices,” as controversy grows over when - if at all - a parent should be notified. The school district in Manchester, New Hampshire recently argued in court it had no responsibility to inform parents about a child’s gender expression at school; a similar 2021 lawsuit filed in Florida helped spur adoption of what opponents call the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. A related bill that restricts what schools and workplaces can teach about race and identity also went into effect July 1 in Florida and quickly raised concerns about self-censorship at one Florida university.
“Nationally, LGBTQ students have been under attack,” as 10 new anti-LGBTQ+ laws went into effect on July 1, all targeting schools. Even the debate around these laws is harmful to students; Trevor Project polling found that 85% of trans and nonbinary youth said that the debate over laws targeting trans people negatively impacted their mental health.
Anti-LGBTQ+ laws also “put LGBTQ-affirming educators on the defensive
,” potentially forcing them to choose between their jobs and outing a child to their parents. This additional pressure has also led to a rise in online harassment of educators
. While the Colorado legislature passed a bill earlier this year
to protect teachers, some claim that a single social media account known as Libs of TikTok
is “shaping public policy in a real way, and affecting teachers’ ability to feel safe in their classrooms.”
Addressing School Discipline Disparities
The Biden Administration announced new school discipline policies - praised as a “small step in the right direction” - to protect students with disabilities from overpunishent. Disparities are particularly persistent among students of color with disabilities. Black children with disabilities accounted for 17.2% of all students with disabilities, but 43% of the students with disabilities who were suspended or expelled from school for more than 10 days during the 2019-2020 school year, according to U.S. News & World Report.
As educators attempt to reduce disparities and promote equity, “unprecedented, rapid changes in the way states collect, report, and share education data internally
” have focused in part on better understanding the experiences of special education students and students of color. Data
from the Education Commission on the States via reporting by Chalkbeat
notes that special education status and race/ethnicity were two of the most cited additional data fields collected by states during the pandemic; if used responsibly, schools and districts hope to be able to better serve all students.
Age Verification Experimentation
You may have caught the news in our last update - or experienced for yourself - that Instagram recently required all users to enter their birthdate in order to verify their age. The platform has since taken things a step further, announcing it is testing three new age-verification methods for a targeted population of users: those who try to change their age from under 18 to older than 18. While some are worried the new system is “confusing” and “incomplete,” a user attempting to raise their age will now be asked to either upload an ID, record a video selfie that AI software will scan, or ask three mutual friends to vouch for their age.
The post introducing the new options notes Instagram’s preference for age verification to occur at the device or app-store level, “allowing teens to be placed in age-appropriate experiences across all the apps they use.”
Learn more about COPPA’s age-verification requirement from this FPF resource
, and stay tuned for more from FPF on this topic in the coming weeks.
Cybersecurity incidents create enormous financial and opportunity costs for schools and students. A New Jersey school district canceled its final exams in the wake of a ransomware attack; across the country a California community college’s website was down weeks after it experienced an attack. Three of the largest school districts in the country - New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles - have been recently impacted by vendor-related data breaches.
In 2021 alone, 67 separate ransomware attacks impacted 954 schools and colleges, costing schools an estimated $3.5 billion in downtime, according to a study by security firm Comparitech. “$1 million ransomware claims have become the norm,” Insurance Journal reports.
What can schools and districts do to help minimize their risks? K-12 Dive
has a good list of 3 ways to keep student data privacy top-of-mind in ed tech procurement
. Parents interested to learn more about the edtech their child is using in school may find this list of questions to ask useful
School Safety and Technology
Following the tragic school shooting in Uvalde, TX, conversations about school safety and the role of security technology are top of mind. We all want to keep students and schools safe, but there are valid concerns, including from a teacher in a school district that has experienced a similar tragedy, about whether installing surveillance technology to ‘harden’ schools does more harm than good.
A recent report on how Indiana schools have responded to school safety threats highlights research that has linked a police presence in schools to negative outcomes including lower graduation rates, higher discipline rates, and increases in arrest rates. There are also questions about how effective surveillance technology is; the school district in Uvalde had implemented “state-of-the-art surveillance” in line with state recommendations. Security experts also caution against the use of cellphones in schools. And the National Education Association (NEA) - the largest teachers union in the country - recently adopted a policy statement that aims to “ensure safe, just, and equitable schools” in part by calling for an end to the “criminalization and policing of students."
Ultimately, “[w]ith school safety, there are no absolutes,” and “[w]hether outfitting America’s schools like miniature fortresses actually helps to stop shootings is anything but clear.” FPF has long advocated for a balanced approach to protecting both student safety and privacy.