CIPA, COPPA, and FERPA Beyond Digital Citizenship

Hey everyone! I’m back, I hope! It has been a busy end of school year! I never imagined it could be busier than actually being in the classroom, but it is! I have a few flights over the next few days so I hope to catch up on everything. I’ve had a few posts in my head for the past month, now time to get them out of that chaos and on to the ol’ blog.

Lately I have had a lot of discussions about student privacy, students online, teachers using social media, etc. Every time this comes up there are 3 acronyms I keep explaining often. FERPA, COPPA, and CIPA. I feel like in education we are some times in such a rush to post things online or our students do that we forget that we need to protect students in the process.  I feel that there is a gap in knowledge here. Before we start pushing teachers and students to get online and use social media, we need to think of the whole picture here. We need to know what rules to follow.

So what are these? Here is my attempt in layman’s terms to explain each of these.

FERPA – Family Educational Rights and Protection Act. This act really says that educational institutions cannot give away any student information. This does not often really touch a classroom teacher too much, but one thing you need to be careful about is registering students for websites without permission of parents. Giving out any directory information to a secondary source without asking or informing. That includes parent information. You have a parent’s email address or phone number, you cannot use it for anything other than what it was given to you for.

CIPA – Children’s Internet Protection Act – This is why you have filters on the internet at your school. We have to have filters for: obscene, child pornography, and anything harmful to children. I get a lot of complaints that we should just open the internet and forget about the filters. We can’t. Do I agree with some of the sites we filter? No not always. But understand this is why there are extremes.

COPPA – Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. This is a huge one. You know when you sign up for a website and it asks you if you are 13 or asks for your birth date? This is why. Websites and social media sites collect information. Even gmail that is not through GAFE. It is the world we live in. But is a problem if someone is under 13. They are considered a child and are protected from this. So here is where this can become a problem: when you have students use a website that in their private policy states that someone has to be over 13 to use. You have students register without parent permission, we have a problem. When you get them to link their information to these sites. When you have accounts with these sites and post things about the students. Here is where the water gets mucky. Facebook is a perfect example of this, think of all the data they sale? This is why children have to be 13 to join.

If you are ever unsure about these, take the 10 minutes and check the private policy of a website. Yeah no one likes the fine print but your job as an educator is to protect students and you need to be sure you do so. Better safe than sorry.

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