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Protecting Students' Online Privacy in the Classroom

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With devices, digital platforms and online activities becoming more and more accessible, teachers across the country are increasingly integrating technology into their classrooms.  And with this mass adoption of tech, there’s a growing concern for student privacy. It can be difficult for teachers to know where to turn for up-to-date guidance to help their students navigate a digital world. Students struggle to understand how their data can be collected and shared online—and the implications that has for their future.

To help you and your students, KQED’s Above the Noise team produced the video Who’s Snooping on You Online?  and an accompanying lesson plan to serve as a digital literacy primer for middle- and high-school students.  

In the video we meet up with the cybersecurity experts at Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to assist students in thinking about how to protect their data online. They recommend something called “Threat Modelling”–a set of five questions everyone should ask themselves when thinking about their digital privacy:  

  1. What do I want to protect?
  2. Who do I want to protect it from?
  3. How likely is it that you will need to protect it?
  4. How bad are the consequences if you fail?
  5. How much trouble are you willing to go through in order to avoid those consequences?

From online data trackers to educational technology to open wifi networks, the video dives into common threats students face online and offers tips for how they can protect themselves, such as creating secure passphrases as passwords.

It can be hard for schools and teachers to figure out how to balance opportunities for learning with technology with student privacy. EFF recently released a report on the risks to student privacy with educational technology. They found that some edtech companies often collect more personally identifiable information than is necessary, and store that information for really long periods of time. And this is often done without the knowledge of students or parents.


In the report, EFF makes several recommendations for schools, teachers, parents and students. Some of the suggestions for teachers include teaching digital literacy to students, advocating for digital literacy teacher training, picking ed tech tools carefully and getting parental consent.

Want to learn more about protecting your students’ privacy online? Here are some additional resources we have found helpful:

Educator’s Guide to Student Data Privacy (Connect Safely)

Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educaitonal Services: Requirements and Best Practices (Department of Education, 2014)

Privacy in the Classroom: What You Need to Know About Educational Software (iapp)

A Starting Point for Ensuring Student Online Privacy (Edutopia)

Ask Your Kid’s School These Essential Student Privacy and Safety Questions (Common Sense Media)

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