Remote Learning: 4 ways to protect your child’s privacy during online education

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Adjusting to remote learning has posed significant challenges for thousands of Irish families. From adapting to a completely different classroom environment to missing out on important in-person activities, the coronavirus pandemic gave rise to a new approach to education that none of us could have predicted. But what about online safety? If you’re concerned about this area, we have a few tips to make sure your child’s distance learning experience is a secure and enjoyable one.

1. Have regular chats with your child

Start having open conversations with your child about online safety and privacy, especially when it comes to distance learning. Some topics to talk about together could include:
  • How to set strong passwords for the programmes they use for school
  • How to securely download programmes, apps and other content
  • What information is safe to share online and what isn’t
Be aware that your child might have their own concerns about remote learning, such as fears about cyberbullying or using their webcam during class. Treat these worries with respect and work with your child to find solutions. You should also reach out to your child’s teachers to ensure camera-shy students won’t be penalised for occasionally turning off their camera.

2. Know what online services your child will be using

Once you’ve discussed safety with your child, ask them about the sites and programmes they use for remote learning. Find out how each platform works, and take steps to optimise safety settings on each of them. You should also consider the following questions when looking at each programme and site:
  • What kind of password protection does my child’s virtual meeting have?
  • How are teachers sharing passwords for online classrooms?
  • How is my child expected to use their camera?
  • Are the sites my child is using for remote learning secured?
Setting up privacy settings and parental controls on all devices, sites and programmes your child uses can also help to keep them safe. Under GDPR, the Age of Digital Consent in Ireland is 16 years old. This is designed to protect the personal information of children. Make sure any new apps or services you download for your child are GDPR Compliant.

3. Check in with the school

Your child’s school may have already given you information on what they are doing to ensure safe remote learning. Many schools also provide children with school email addresses to securely sign into apps and programmes they use for school. However, don’t be afraid to contact the school if you have any questions, such as:
  • How will teachers keep track of student attendance, engagement and progress?
  • How is the school responding to incidents of cyberbullying?
  • Are teachers providing lessons on privacy during the school day?
  • For schools that are providing laptops and equipment to children, will the school set up filtering to block inappropriate material on the devices?

4. Remain close by whenever possible

You don’t need to constantly hover over your child’s shoulder while they learn from home, but you should take an active interest in how they are dealing with remote learning. If you’re working from home, check in with your child as much as possible throughout the day to ensure they are engaged with schoolwork. If you work outside the home, set aside time to talk about what they learned at school today, and how they are feeling about remote learning. Above all, let your child know that they can come to you whenever they encounter difficulties online.

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