The start of the new school year always brings a lot of change.  New staff come in, new policies and procedures are introduced, and for my a change in position.  This year I have taken on the role of IT Facilitator for the Elementary section of my school.  To say that I am thrilled would be a bit of an understatement.

I'm looking forward to working with the entire school community on integrating technology within the curriculum.  I have lots of ideas that I know need to be made into realistic goals.  So far everything has been going smoothly except for one thing:

User Agreements

Okay I understand their point.  To protect people and make sure companies are not liable for anything that may happen using their resources.  I'm lucky and a lot of us are lucky in that we read the acceptable user age and pass with flying colours (usually minimum age is 13 unless otherwise stated).  From my perspective as a classroom teacher and now an IT Facilitator the whole thing is horribly confusing.

One site will say it's not okay to have kids under the age of 13 sign up.  Another will not put on any restriction.  One site will allow student accounts if they are under the age of 13.  Another will not permit.  One resource I found actually has contradictory information being stated in their TOA and their forums (a staff member provided the contradiction in questions).

What does al this boil down to?  I blame COPA.  Yes I understand that the idea behind it is to protect children from harm (an idea I support).  However, it has made a lot of companies worried about the legal ramifications of having under 13's use their sites.  COPA is an American law and if the company operates out of there it is expected to follow which in turn has an impact on people outside America who would like to use their resource but can't.

Solution

The easiest solution would be to clarify the rules signing students up to use different online resources.  I am all up for having them have their own school GMail account within school starting at a young age.  Am I convinced that students need to have their own personal GMail account at a young age, not necessarily.  However, the law needs to make clear the difference between educational and personal use.  Companies also need to understand this and realize that if they want schools to use their products, then they are going to have to jump through some extra hoops.

A more radical solution would be to scrap COPA altogether and come up with a clearer simpler policy that could be used worldwide.  Currently there are so many different variations of the law worldwide that it is confusing for bother teachers and parents who move internationally.  For example I had a friend move from Asia to Europe and she was shocked by how restrictive it was.

In the meantime Med Kharbach has done some wonderful research into this issue and provides a great list of resources. 


Let me know your thoughts below.

    Author

    Brendan is an international school teacher.  He currently teaches grade 4 at Busan International Foreign School.

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