Parents Want More Tech in K-12, but Worry About Digital Safety

While technology in the K-12 classroom is nothing new, COVID-19 has heightened the role it plays in education. New research from the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) found the vast majority of parents support the use of education technology, but also have serious concerns.

COVID-19 has certainly served as an impetus in bringing more technology into education, but parents don’t want to see that disappear once the pandemic is over. The report, released Sept. 21, found that three quarters (76 percent) say they are likely to support more online learning at home even after the pandemic.

Despite their support, parents do have concerns – namely, protecting their children’s digital privacy. The report also found that parents become increasingly concerned as they learn more about their children’s potential vulnerability to data breaches and other safety risks (from 62 percent to 69 percent).

“Parents see a clear role for technology when it comes to educating their children, both during the pandemic and beyond,” said CDT President and CEO Alexandra Givens. “Yet, many feel ill-equipped to safeguard their children from data breaches and other safety risks.”

In terms of who is responsible for protecting their children’s data privacy, parents view themselves as partners with school administrators and staff. The majority – 67 percent – say that they have “some” or “a great deal” of say over how data and information are collected and used by their schools. However, that belief doesn’t translate into high awareness or involvement in their school’s data privacy plan. Only 40 percent of parents say their schools have explained how it protects student data. Concerningly, many parents report that neither they nor the schools are likely to start this important conversation.

“Parents’ initial level of concern about student data privacy is limited by awareness – they know digital safety is important, but their understanding of the issue is generally low,” said CDT Senior Fellow of Student Privacy Elizabeth Laird.

The report also delved into another hot topic in K-12 education – the digital divide.

Low-income parents reported significantly fewer online student-teacher interactions (email, videoconferencing, apps, etc.). Nearly half – 48 percent – of high-income households report five or more types of remote interaction during virtual schooling, compared to just 28 percent of households with an income below $50,000.

“Far too many children are unable to utilize education technology at all due to internet access inequalities,” said Givens. “As we bring more students online, we need to make sure families are supported and their data is protected.”

Kate Polit
About Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs