Schools and child care programs are not protecting children’s information online

Over 40% of schools and child care programs are sharing children’s information online through public websites, social networks and blogs.

Today HiMama released our inaugural report on Parents in a Digital Age 2015. The report is based on a survey of parents across the United States and Canada and focuses on understanding parents’ feelings, attitudes and behaviors in regards to the privacy and security of their children’s information online. Read more here to learn about how HiMama’s child care software protects children’s information.

One aspect of the report investigates how schools and child care programs are sharing children’s information with parents. The results are conclusive that schools and child care programs are missing the mark when it comes to the frequency and channels through which they’re informing parents about their child.

First of all, schools and child care programs are not sharing enough information with parents. Nearly 60% of surveyed parents indicated that they wanted more information about their child’s activities and learning while in these programs. Our survey participants have children aged 0 to 14 which I think also speaks to the common misconception that parents do not want information on a regular and frequent basis as their children move from a child care to a school setting.

I would like more information about my child’s activities and learning while in a child care program or school.

More alarming than school and child care programs missing the mark with the frequency in which they’re sharing information with parents is the channels through which they’re sharing information. For example, other than email, the two main channels through which schools and child care programs distribute digital photos of children is Facebook and other social networks, public websites, and blogs. These are not secure or private channels and organizations using these channels should be mindful of the risks they’re taking with children’s online safety and privacy.

For example, many people are unaware that Facebook, and many other social networks, own the digital rights to any photos posted on their site. If your organization is using one of these networks, even a closed group network, you should be getting parents permission to release their children’s photos to these companies. Public websites and blogs are completely open networks and should not be used by any organization without very explicit written consent from parents.

Parents preferred method for their schools and child care programs to share information with them is through a private password protected site. This is the most secure and private channel for sharing information and media, yet it’s the most underutilized approach relative to parent preferences.

How would you like your child care program or school to distribute digital photos of your child?

We should definitely aim to take advantage of all the wonderful benefits that this digital age has to offer, but only through well-informed decisions can we ensure the security and privacy of children’s information online. Parents often trust the decisions of their child’s school or early learning program assuming they are well versed in these matters. Parents would be wise to start asking questions. Also, it is time that these institutions start educating themselves more thoroughly in the matters of cyber security and safety.

Ron Spreeuwenberg

Ron is the Co-Founder & CEO of HiMama, where he leads all aspects of a social purpose business that helps early childhood educators improve learning outcomes for children.