September 4, 2020


The Start of School and the Dangers Involved


It is finally that time of year and, after much debate, schools actually are being allowed to open!   Some have decided to do all online learning, some all in the physical building and some a hybrid solution with both online and in person learning.  Many restrictions have been put in place by Governor Wolf and PA Health Secretary Dr. “Rachel” Levine.   The Centers for Disease Control note, “…The best available evidence indicates that COVID-19 poses relatively low risks to school-aged children. Children appear to be at lower risk for contracting COVID-19 compared to adults.” 

Students may be at less risk for COVID, but online learning can pose a great risk to children!

Many schools are handing out Chromebooks (prior to the pandemic Chromebooks made up about 60% of tech devices used in schools in America!) for your child’s online schoolwork, but did you know that predators can communicate with your child through Chromebooks? Google owns Chromebook and it gives students easy access to hardcore porn!  In fact, it was named to the National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s 2020 Dirty Dozen List.  Google has made some algorithm changes to reduce the amount of hardcore porn displayed when searching innocent, unrelated terms.  They now also allow a Google Classroom school account to be added to Family Link through Chromebooks.

However, searches tied to sex or porn still yield pornographic images within seconds.  

BIG PROBLEM:  Google refuses to proactively turn on parental controls on Chromebooks sold to schools, which the majority are sold to schools!  They do provide procedures for schools to filter and block certain content on Chromebooks, but even the school’s IT people are often confused by the multiple steps required to turn on and consistently monitor them.   Google could solve this problem by simply enabling default filtering tools to block porn. Additionally, many schools (public and private) contract with the online database EBSCO or its competitor Gale.  These are being promoted as “safe alternatives” to the internet.  However, these popular database products have come under serious fire for embedded porn, sex shop advertisements, adult erotic literature and live links to Pornhub and other dangerous websites.  Schools unknowingly contract with EBSCO or Gale, not realizing these databases are outside the reach of the school’s internet filter.  Also, homeschoolers and remote learners (like many Pennsylvania students are this school year) are not exempt because public libraries typically package Research Databases as “homework tools” for children.   Additionally, PA’s Power Library gives children access to Gale and EBSCO resources!  (more on this next week).

Some schools’ websites link directly to the Power Library.

Here are some general guidelines for devices:

  1.  Keep all internet devices out of the bedroom as much as possible.  It used to be just keeping computers out of the bedroom, but now kids’ phones are computers! 

2. Predators can also communicate through iPhones, Mac Books, iPads and laptops!   Check out the Parents Guides at Protect Young Eyes.

3, Is your child into gaming?  Predators can also communicate with your child using Xbox/Playstation consoles!    Here’s how to filter those devices. 

4. Social media is very much a part of your child’s life.  Instagram and Snapchat are becoming immensely popular.   Click here for a Parents and Teens Guide to Instagram and here for a Parent’s Guide to Snapchat.

Be aware that just because the country is faced with a coronavirus pandemic and many are still under lockdown, reports of sex trafficking cases have increased 40 percent during that time.  Predators are after our kids and magazines like Teen Vogue encourages its young readers to “keep their sex lives alive during the pandemic by sexting pictures of themselves.”   Read the story here

Action Steps

  1.  Pray for your child(en)’s safety.
  2. Be proactive:  Know what your child is doing on their devices and take the steps necessary to monitor their activity.
  3. Talk to your child(ren) about the dangers of communicating with strangers on their devices. 
  4. Talk to them about the dangers (and illegality) of sexting.
  5. Ask your school whether they contract with EBSCO or Gale. 
  6. If you homeschool or your child is a remote learner, ask your public library if they package Research Databases as “homework tools.”

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