Student Well-Being

Who Are You?

By Michelle R. Davis — January 16, 2009 2 min read

Companies selling services to protect children and teenagers from sexual predators on the Internet have enlisted the help of schools and teachers to verify students’ personal information. Those companies are also sharing some of the information with Web sites, which can pass it along to businesses for use in targeting advertising to young audiences.

Amid continuing parental and political attention focused on keeping K-12 students safe online, some companies are providing services that aim to ensure adults can’t pose as young people in cyberspace, and that minors can’t claim to be older than they are. But such firms’ use of schools to verify students’ ages and other information worries some educators and observers.

The practice, they say, raises privacy concerns—although it apparently is within the bounds of the main federal law that safeguards students’ educational data—as well as ethical worries about schools’ role in assisting for-profit businesses. In some cases, schools earn money by participating in the process.

“It’s very troubling when schools are involved,” says Scott McLeod, the founding director of the Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education, or CASTLE, at Iowa State University, in Ames. “It’s raising this bogeyman [of Internet predators] so you think you better do this to keep your kid safe, but it cracks open the door to all this other marketing.”

Minors’ online safety has become a hot-button issue. State attorneys general concerned with keeping minors safe from online predators and from exposure to Internet pornography have put pressure on social-networking sites to protect underage users.

In January 2008, 49 attorneys general and MySpace struck a deal to form the Internet Safety Technical Task Force, run by Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, to tackle the problem. High on the task force’s list is finding ways to verify the age of children and teenagers online&mdasha difficult endeavor because most students lack driver’s licenses, and few databases list children’s birthdates.

Student Information Verification

Companies that use schools to verify online student profiles may use a business model that follows these steps:

STEP #1
Parent or student provides student’s personal information to company. Registration can cost money or be free.

STEP #2
Company uses a teacher or school to verify the information. School may receive payment for its efforts.

STEP #3
Companies alert partner social-networking Web sites that student users’ information has been verified Company is paid for its service by Web site.

STEP #4
If the user is a minor, social-networking sites put already established protections in place, such as ensuring that the user is not exposed to adult advertising.

STEP #5
Company releases some private information to Web site, often gender, age, and general geographic area. Company is paid for this information by Web site.

STEP #6
Web site uses private information to help advertisers target student users. Web site can charge more for its advertising since it can argue that it will now be more effective in targeting potential customers.

Source: Education Week

A handful of companies have concluded the best way to check students’ information is through schools.

Ontario, Calif.-based eGuardian, for instance, is asking schools to verify students’ ages, addresses, and other personal information, and rewarding the schools financially for doing so. Others, such as Identity.net, based in Bellevue, Wash., ask teachers to validate data provided by students.

The service offered by eGuardian starts with a parent, who pays $29 and provides information on his or her child that includes name, age, gender, address, and school. Then the company asks school officials to confirm that information with a simple yes or no. Schools get $11 for each application they verify, says Ron Zayas, the chief executive officer of eGuardian.

Identity.net, established in 2007, is newly partnered with i-SAFE Inc., a Carlsbad, Calif.-based nonprofit group that provided an Internet-safety curriculum to 6.2 million students in public and private schools in 2007.

As part of i-SAFE’s classroom digital-privacy curriculum, students will create profiles through Identity.net and learn when to share less or more personal information in cyberspace, says Teri L. Schroeder, the CEO of i-SAFE. Classroom teachers verify the students’ information for Identity.net, which hopes to get up to 4 million students and 700,000 faculty members in its databases. But with this service, no payment is made to the school for verification.

A version of this article appeared in the January 21, 2009 edition of Digital Directions as Who Are You?

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Safe Return to Schools is Possible with Testing
We are edging closer to a nationwide return to in-person learning in the fall. However, vaccinations alone will not get us through this. Young children not being able to vaccinate, the spread of new and
Content provided by BD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
Meeting the Moment: Accelerating Equitable Recovery and Transformative Change
Educators are deciding how best to re-establish routines such as everyday attendance, rebuild the relationships for resilient school communities, and center teaching and learning to consciously prioritize protecting the health and overall well-being of students
Content provided by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Addressing Learning Loss: What Schools Need to Accelerate Reading Instruction in K-3
When K-3 students return to classrooms this fall, there will be huge gaps in foundational reading skills. Does your school or district need a plan to address learning loss and accelerate student growth? In this
Content provided by PDX Reading

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Spotlight Spotlight on Student Health & Safety
In this Spotlight, assess what the data says and how educators can play a part in protecting their students, and more.
Student Well-Being Thousands of Kids Lost Parents to COVID-19. Schools Must Prepare to Help the Grieving
While some may view the back-to-school season as a return to “normal,” for those students who’ve lost someone, it will feel anything but.
9 min read
Vickie Quarles, a widow in Memphis, Tenn., lost her husband to COVID-19 in December 2020. She is now raising their five daughters alone. Her older daughter, Alyssa, 18, comforts her in their home.
Vickie Quarles, a widow in Memphis, Tenn., lost her husband to COVID-19 in December 2020. She is now raising their five daughters alone. Her oldest daughter, Alyssa, 18, comforts her in their home.
Karen Pulfer Focht for Education Week
Student Well-Being Nation's Pediatricians Call for All Students, Staff to Wear Masks in School
Countering recent guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, the physicians say even vaccinated students should wear face coverings
5 min read
Students are reminded to wear a mask amidst other chalk drawings on the sidewalk as they arrive for the first day of school at Union High School in Tulsa, Okla., on Aug. 24, 2020.
A sidewalk-chalk drawing reminds students to wear a mask as they arrive for the first day of school last August at Union High School in Tulsa, Okla.
Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP
Student Well-Being The Pandemic and Politics Made Life Especially Rough for LGBTQ Youth, Survey Finds
More than 80 percent of 13- to 24-year-olds who say they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning said 2020 was very hard.
2 min read
People wave pride flags and hold signs during a rally in support of LGBTQ students at Ridgeline High School, Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Millville, Utah. Students and school district officials in Utah are outraged after a high school student ripped down a pride flag to the cheers of other students during diversity week. A rally was held the following day in response to show support for the LGBTQ community.
People rally in support of LGBTQ students at Ridgeline High School on April 14, 2021, in Millville, Utah. The day before a high school student ripped down a pride flag to the cheers of other students during diversity week.
Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP