Personal Data and Digital Identity: Are the Sites You are Using Safe?

Have you ever really read the Terms of Service for a program that you are using? I can honestly say that until writing this blog post, I have not. I have skimmed or read sections, but never have read any terms of service in their entirety. I definitely have not read any legal terms or laws that have been made in regards to technology.  I joke around and say that when people check the box that states they have read the Terms of Service that it is the most common lie told.

But, as educators and people in charge of the safety of our students, shouldn’t we be reading them? We often preach about personal data and internet safety, but do we practice what we preach? I am making a conscious effort now to do so. I am currently in a cohort to become ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) certified and the standard that I am focusing on is Citizen 3d: Model and promote the management of personal data and digital identity and protect student data privacy.  Since I am responsible for the technology programs that we integrate within the curriculum, that means I am also responsible for understanding the terms of service. To begin this new quest, I have taken four programs that we regularly use in our Lower School (grades 1-4) and have analyzed them based on their terms of service. I wanted to know age restrictions, how data is shared and if there was anything that would impact my choice of using the programs in our school. Here is what I have found:

Program Age Restrictions Sharing Data Policy Anything to Impact Use
IXL IXL Terms of Service No service to children. An adult 18 years or older can purchase service. Anyone under 18 must use with consent of parent, guardian, or school Claims to not share data but uses internal data for improvement of content offered *IXL has rights to collect student data for use as they deem fit- research, data, etc *IXL will not share with third parties
Vocabulary- SpellingCity VocabularySpellingCity Terms of Service Anyone under the age of 18 must be registered by parent, guardian, or school official Do not sell information and use data for website Google log-in link

*will ask consent before sharing data *try to limit interaction with third parties

Flocabulary Flocbulary Term of Service Anyone under the age of 16 must be registered by parent, guardian, or school official Accounts can be set up without sharing student information and data *may have to download third parties info to gain access to parts of site Terms of Service Users under the age of 13 must have permission and guidance from parent, guardian or school official Data collection for *takes steps to minimize data collection and sharing for under age 13 *private policy for user generated content but username and work becomes public for’s use *Google log-in link

After spending a few hours looking in depth at these programs,  I felt validated that I had chosen programs that promote a positive vision for digital citizenship. In our school, three of the programs (IXL, VocabularySpellingCity, are used by every student, which means they have usernames and log-ins. These programs focus on protecting student data and safely managing digital identity and privacy, which is exactly the type of program we want to be using at our school. Flocabulary is a program that we use through teacher accounts and do not have any individual student accounts. When analyzing this program, I learned that part of the program needs to use third parties in order to gain access to the information. This is not something that I feel comfortable letting students ages 6-9 navigate on their own. I am glad we are letting teachers lead the way while using the program.

Why is it important to know about the terms of service?

Students need to have the opportunity to develop their digital self, also known as their online identity.  This will help foster their ability to be digital agents. Teaches always making decisions for students does not allow for student growth. Choosing a variety of programs, including ones that allow for online interaction and having personal log-ins, will help students interact in a positive digital environment.

So, take time to actually read the terms of service. I am glad that I did and that I am now making this a standard part of choosing and integrating technology programs in our curriculum.

ISTE Standards for Educators 3d Citizen: Model and promote management of personal data and digital identity and protect student data privacy


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