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“Social distancing,” “shelter-in-place,” “virtual happy hour” – these are some of the new expressions on everyone’s lips the past few weeks. For many kids, parents, and teachers, add “remote learning” or “distance learning” to the list. Because of Coronavirus-related school closures, millions of students are now learning from home. For parents who are concerned about the privacy and security of their children’s personal data while they’re learning online, here are some things to know.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) generally requires websites and online services to get consent from parents before collecting personal information from kids younger than 13.

If your child’s school is providing remote learning: Under COPPA, schools can consent on behalf of parents to the collection of student personal information by educational technology services. If your school has consented, then the service may only use that information for educational – not commercial – purposes. If you have questions about a service’s privacy and security practices, first review its online privacy notice. If you still have questions, consider asking your school. Remember, please, to be patient with your child’s school, as many schools are working hard to implement distance learning and may not be able to respond quickly. If you’d like to learn more, check out the U.S. Department of Education’s Student Privacy Policy Office’s new guidance on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) – “FERPA and Virtual Learning.”

If you’re looking for remote learning opportunities for your child separate from school: Review the service’s privacy and security policies. Look for services that clearly explain their data collection and use policies.

While you’re at it, this is a good time to talk to your child about how to stay safe online. Discuss things like the importance of using strong passwords and the implications of posting or sharing information online. The FTC has guidance for parents to help keep kids safe online, including ways to avoid child identity theft and what to do if it happens. So, let the remote learning begin!

It is your choice whether to submit a comment. If you do, you must create a user name, or we will not post your comment. The Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes this information collection for purposes of managing online comments. Comments and user names are part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public records system, and user names also are part of the FTC’s computer user records system. We may routinely use these records as described in the FTC’s Privacy Act system notices. For more information on how the FTC handles information that we collect, please read our privacy policy.

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April 09, 2020
Transparency and Simplification Thanks
Old Vet
April 09, 2020
All the rules in the world make no difference to companies who's bottom line can be raised by selling your data or by taking shortcuts with privacy software.
April 09, 2020
"If your school has consented, then the service may only use that information for educational – not commercial – purposes." Sure. Good luck with that.