Advanced parentingWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A class action lawsuit was recently filed against the Lower Merion School District, located in a suburb of Philadelphia, by a student who alleges that he was spied on in his own home by the district. The student, Blake Robbins, says he was accused by his Harriton High School assistant principal of improperly behaving in his home and shown, as proof, a photo of himself alone in his bedroom that had been taken by the remotely-accessible webcam on his school-issued laptop. The assistant principal and the Lower Merion School District deny that such spying occurred.
What the school doesn’t deny is that they have, indeed, used the remote-access feature on 42 of their laptops. The district claims that the webcams have only been remotely activated to figure out the locations of computers that have been reported missing. Admittedly, however, the district accessed the webcams remotely without informing or asking permission from its students or their parents.
The day when all students will be issued a laptop computer of their very own at the beginning of the school year is quickly approaching. The increasing affordability of personal computers, the rapid rate at which information changes and the almost-complete integration of technology into every single facet of everyday life make swapping tablets of paper for a tablet computer a sooner-than-later inevitability. It will not be long before it will only make sense for all school systems to follow Lower Merion’s technological lead.
Hopefully, other school districts will not follow Lower Merion’s lead when it comes to the privacy of students and their families. With the mixing of schools and technology still somewhat in the early stages, it is not surprising that Lower Merion committed such a major err in judgment by allowing unauthorized remote activation of what is essentially an electronic window into the homes of its students. Withholding assumptions of malevolence on the district’s part, I have to presume that Lower Merion really did just want a way to locate missing computers.
I am not hesitant to assume, however, that the Lower Merion School District, and likely other technologically-advanced school districts, are a bit behind when it comes to understanding the full ramifications of features such as remote activation. What a district may innocently think of as loss protection, a technologically-savvy, yet unscrupulous, student or staff member may think of as a not-so-innocent opportunity. Remote activation in the wrong hands could easily strip the privacy from students’ homes. Robbins’s spying allegation has no doubt been a wake up call to his school district and similar districts around the country.
It should be a wake up call for all parents too. Rather than waking up our paranoia, however, the Lower Merion lawsuit should rouse our motivation to stay technologically on top of things. The seemingly limitless educational possibilities of a laptop computer in every child’s hands will always outweigh the drawbacks. Continuing to educate our children with a paper and pencil classroom in order to teach them how to live in a digitized world would be like showing them how to ride a bike in order to teach them how to drive a car. Keeping our educational system squarely in line with the real world is essential for our children’s future success.
Still, watching technology exponentially expand as we age can make keeping up seem evermore daunting. Staying informed of and making ourselves comfortable with the latest electronic devices, however, is also becoming an essential part of our success as parents. Teaching, communicating with and even protecting our children now carry with them technological responsibilities. As much as we may want to stick with a comfort zone when it comes to computers, iPods and cell phones, our parenting duties are begging us otherwise. As we send our children off into an ever-expanding digitized world, we must do our best to stay technologically confident beside them.
Shannon and her husband Michael are raising three children in Sylvania. E-mail her at email@example.com.