Privacy & Security

Ed Tech Usage is Up. So Are Parent Privacy Concerns

By Alyson Klein — November 16, 2021 2 min read
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As schools ramp up their use of digital tools—and the data collection that often goes with them—parents are becoming increasingly concerned about their children’s privacy, a new survey shows.

What’s more, both parents and students want more say in how their personal information is used, according to a report released Nov. 15 by the Center for Democracy & Technology, a nonprofit organization that seeks to shape technology policy, with an emphasis on protecting consumer rights.

More than one in three parents—38 percent— listed privacy and security of their child’s data as something they are “very concerned” about, up from 30 percent one year earlier. Concern was highest among white parents, those that said they were familiar with the school’s privacy policies, and families with higher incomes.

Parents and students alike want a bigger role in deciding how schools plan to use their personal information, but often report that no one has asked for their input. Ninety-three percent of parents say it is important for schools to engage with parents or guardians about how they plan to use student data. But only 44 percent of parents report that their school district asked for their input on the subject.

A majority of parents—62 percent—also want a seat at the table when it comes to deciding what types of technology their district adopts. And 41 percent want a say when their child’s school is re-evaluating technology that’s been in use for a while.

Meanwhile, 82 percent of students said they should have a hand in figuring out how their personal data is collected and used by their school. But only a little more than a quarter—26 percent—said they had been asked for their feedback.

Students’ number one worry: a data breach that would give outsiders access to their personal records. Seventy-two percent of students surveyed said they were either “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about that happening.

And more than half of students—52 percent—are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about their data being shared with local, state, or federal officials, including information on whether they had been vaccinated against st COVID-19. Black students were especially worried about their personal records being shared with government entities, with 61 percent reporting it is something they are anxious about. High school seniors were also more likely to have concerns than younger students, with 64 percent saying this is something they are worried about.

Fifty-six percent of kids say they are “very” or at least “somewhat” concerned about “Zoombombing,” when uninvited people show up and join or interrupt class discussion. And another 54 percent say they are worried about their information—including grades, attendance, and discipline record—being shared with the local police department.

“Since the growth of online learning in response to the pandemic, our research consistently shows that edtech is here to stay,” said Alexandra Reeve Givens, the CEO of the Center for Democracy and Technology. “However, our research also shows persistent and growing student privacy concerns, underscoring the need to safeguard student privacy and support the responsible use of education data and technology.”

The survey, which was conducted last summer, included 1,001 10th grade teachers, 1,663 K-12 parents, and 420 ninth through 12th grade students.

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