Mobile phones in schools: Students tracked and restricted by Family Zone

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TRACKING a student’s online activities has just become even easier, with schools across Australia employing a new service that monitors their mobile phone use and has the ability to disable “distracting” apps.

Most schools already have restricted internet access in place but with this monitoring system, developed by Australian company Family Zone, schools will have control over how students are using their mobile devices, even if they using their personal phone data.

Cyber-bullying and online predators are just some of the threats that this surveillance tool is hoping to protect young Aussies from but not everyone is on board with this course of action, with some experts citing privacy invasion concerns.

Parent’s must give their permission for schools to employ this service and are also given the option to use the monitoring tool in their homes.

media_cameraFamily Zone’s service will allow schools and parents to restrict access to apps, such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, that are seen as potential distractions for students.

This service is set to be introduced into about 40 schools across the country, with students having to download an app that allows the school and parents control over what apps and websites they access, even giving them the ability deactivate the phone’s camera.

As well as monitoring student’s online access the app can notify the school and parents when a student is using search terms that may signal them as being “at risk” and then hopefully facilitate a conversation.

Marist College Bendigo is one of the schools who are looking to introduce this service and technology leader Tony Hoye told The Age he hopes it will give parents peace of mind to know their children are being safe online.

“This gives parents a bit of control back and visibility. The monitoring is to start a conversation between the parent and the child rather than a punishment type of scenario,” he said.

But Australian Privacy Foundation chair David Vaile, said that there is potential for this tool to have the opposite effect, with students feeling like they are under scrutiny resulting in them shying away from open discussions.

“Kids want to live a separate life to their parents and there is a risk this could isolate young people … rather than opening up you feel like the object of surveillance,” he told The Age.

Originally published as Schools tracking students’ online activities

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