December 8, 2022

Starting a Digital Safety Dialogue

GoGuardian Team
The GoGuardian and PTA logos together

This piece originally appeared on the National PTA website on December 2, 2022.

Learning technologies are changing fast, accelerated by the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students now spend a significant part of each day learning online and working with school-issued technology. In this new reality — where digital learning is pervasive and evolving — parents and schools must work together to keep kids safer online.

Digital learning is here to stay, so let’s make it safer

Prior to the pandemic, 45% of American schools reported having a computer for every student (NCES, 2021). Today, as many as 80% of K-12 students have and use a school-issued device, according to a recent national poll by Morning Consult.

Viewed one way, this is an extremely positive development: more digital access = more learning opportunities.

  • 93% of K-12 parents and 98% of educators agree the internet is a useful tool that should be used to enhance learning.

Parents have understandable concerns about these new technologies, though.

  • 71% of K-12 parents report concerns about their child accessing explicit or harmful content on school-issued devices.
  • 80% of K-12 parents agree unrestricted internet access on school-issued devices can be harmful to student mental health.

Taken together, it’s understandable that:

  • 92% of parents believe it is necessary to have online educational technologies in place to prevent students from accessing harmful or explicit content.

For more findings, be sure to check out the data from Morning Consult.

Thankfully, most schools do have internet safety plans these days. In fact, schools are required under the Children’s Internet Protection Act to have an online safety program in order to receive certain funding. But, while these safeguards are critical, they aren’t necessarily enough.

“We need to get proactive now about internet safety…Completely banning the use of internet and social media is no longer a realistic option, because a lot of schoolwork has transferred online. [Parents, caregivers, kids, and educators] need to educate ourselves and start productive dialogues," Maya Kruger, South Lake Middle PTSA, PTA Connected Smart Talk Participant, said.

Safety starts with a conversation

Parents, caregivers, teachers, and school administrators need to be on the same team to ensure students’ online safety as well as their privacy. That requires open and active communication.

As a parent and former educator himself, GoGuardian Head of Privacy and Data Policy Teddy Hartman understands the balancing act school districts must navigate as they deploy technology intended to keep students safe while also maintaining transparency. “As a first step,” Teddy says, “schools should publicly share any education vendors they work with and the types of data privacy protections both the school system and vendor have in place.”

Beyond that, educators and caregivers can help one another by holding community dialogues about the school’s digital safety technology plan.

Start a digital safety dialogue in your community

GoGuardian recently teamed up with National PTA to create a resource for parents who want to promote improved online safety in their child’s school. Inside, you’ll find a list of questions you can ask to better understand your district’s current digital safety plans and open a dialogue in your community.

We hope this information sparks healthy conversations that help school communities put quality tools and support systems in place to keep our kids safer in a changing digital world.

GoGuardian has been a Proud National Sponsor of PTA since 2018 and is supporting the release of its updated National Standards for Family-School Partnerships. GoGuardian and the National PTA are committed to student success. Together, they are working to engage families and educators on solutions to best support student mental health and online safety.