The Trend of BYOD in Private Schools


My kids attend a private school in the Charlotte metropolitan area.  Last year I sat through a parent meeting where the school laid out their plans for the upcoming year, part of which was the technology plans.  They were selling the BYOD program and my frustration immediately shot through the roof, so much so I am having a debate with myself that if this is the right place for my kids beyond this year.  This article will go through the side effects and risks that students, parents, and schools face in light of these decisions.  This will not apply to businesses and organizations as there are different arguments for each type of business.

Many private schools are moving to a bring your own device, also known as BYOD, platform in the school.  For many years both public and private schools were making strides to provide iPads and other devices to students.  Then upon graduation they could keep the device.  Many schools also had students on two and three year plans where the devices were upgraded at predetermined intervals.  Private school included the device as part of the tuition and most public schools pay for the devices with donations and grants.

This decision appears to be from a financial standpoint peppered in with the occasional parent advocating for this. The decision is made at the school board level and the school sells it to the parents under a misleading sales pitch that this "open program" will be more convenient and the students will be able to use whatever device they are comfortable with.  The parents are often fine with this because the student doesn't have to leave their personal device at home.  Here is a brief example of how each group is effected.


The Students

It is a schools job to keep our kids safe.  As parents we are entrusting the leadership of the school to look after our kids during the day.  We want our kindergartners to be safe on a playground, our middle school student to be protected from a bully, and our high school student to learn in a drug and alcohol free environment.  At every level of education we change our expectations as to what the school should provide to keep our kids safe.  Schools take steps to protect the physical security of the building as well.

Having devices with unrestricted internet enter into the school buildings can bring lasting harm to students.  The internet has a lot of great stuff on it that is educational.  But it is an open platform and I don't want the less moral aspects of the internet effecting our children.  Further, an unrestricted device could have social media platforms like Facebook installed which allows students to communicate with friends, as well as someone posting embarrassing stuff about fellow students immediately as it happens in real time.  It allows unmotivated student to check out and play games during a chemistry class.  Or someone to snap unwanted pictures of girls as they walk up the stairs.

There is very little good that benefits a student by being allowed to use an unrestricted device.  As a conservative parent I would prefer if my kids didn't witness nudity, drug and alcohol abuse, fowl language, and pointless videos on the internet.  I take steps to restrict my kids devices from these things so they can just be kids.  A device provided by a school can be locked down to focus the content and the powers of the internet for educational purposes and the school can more easily accomplish its academic goals.


The Parents

Every parent has their own standards for raising their kids.  Some allow more TV than others, use of mobile devices, and dating at age 13.  Each family is unique.  Some have religious beliefs that are not shared by every other student in school.  As parents we want our values to be instilled in our children and those values carried out when we are not around.

When BYOD occurs in a school you lose control.  Maybe there is a movie that you didn't want your child to see, or a subject they need to avoid, maybe your child has anxiety and you are working with them on body image, or they suffer from eating disorders...Any number of things could be going on.  As a parent you need to be able to have a say in the environment your kids are subjected to.  Having unrestricted devices in school will ensure you have no say in what your kids see.

We can't protect our kids from everything or keep them in a bubble.  But we still have a say in what they witness at school.  The school can take steps to protect the kids on the internet and as a security expert I can tell you the BYOD programs do the opposite.  If your youngster is subject to bullying while at school you can hold the school accountable.  Well I am here to tell you if your child is being bullied on their device while at school because of a BYOD program you can hold them equally accountable, and please do.  They are allowing this by allowing the devices.

On a slightly lighter note, I bet they also raised the tuition this year while cutting the devices.  They are giving you less supplies than a public school would.


The Schools

You are subjecting your school to a mass amount of lawsuits and liability by not controlling the devices in school.  BYOD by definition means you do not own the device, therefore you cannot control the content on the device.  Even if you put a web filter on the firewalls in your organization this can be easily bypassed by someone turing off wifi or apps designed to work around it.

If you were to provide the devices as part of the tuition you could easily install mobile management software that would force restrictions on the device, restrict the usage of pointless apps, enforce web blocking, and hone the content.  You could enforce things like YouTube for Schools instead of just YouTube.  You could prevent Facebook at school and other social media apps.  You could disable the cameras and access to music.  These controls will actual keep the kids focused and make them feel safe.  When a person feels safe they accomplish so much more than when they are afraid.  I was bullied as a kid and I was not a good student on the days I felt nervous.  The schools job ends at the end of the day and you can't control what the parents allow.  But you can control it while at school.  For kids in a bad home environment you are the sanctuary, this carries through to the environment you provide.  The world can be a scary place for kids and the internet raises as many questions as it answers. 

By having a BYOD policy and not controlling the device you are liable for any activity that occurs while at your building.  You haven't taken reasonable steps to protect the students while at school.  And there are attorneys waiting to sue you for any activity that happens while there.  You are doing a disservice to the community