MSCS parents say child was given unrestricted access to internet on district laptop
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - One MSCS family says their child had unrestricted internet access on the laptop their child uses for school.
The Memphis-Shelby County School (MSCS) parents say they’re concerned about students’ ability to access all kinds of sites on the internet, on campus and off.
Two parents reached out to Action News 5 with their concerns about unrestricted internet access on a district-issued laptop.
Action News 5 is protecting the child’s identity, as well as the parents’.
After noticing their 12-year-old’s grades were dropping last school year, Ashley and Will got worried.
“We couldn’t figure it out until I thought to look at her school device,” said Ashley.
They found out their daughter had been browsing online during class.
“What was going on was YouTube,” said Ashley. “YouTube, YouTube. All day long in every class.”
Will says he turned to the school principal in December 2022, concerned about the unsupervised access.
He says he met with school leaders twice and the laptop was eventually taken away.
“The last thing they left me with is, ‘At least she’s not looking at adult content like the other kids are during school,’” said Will. “Like that was normal. Like it was completely normal and they all shook their heads and laughed at each other at that point.”
His daughter’s grades improved, but not before the school official deemed she had an internet addiction and referred the child to a counselor.
Mike Brady, president and CEO of Cyber Solutions Group, says in most cases, firewalls are in place to prevent access to social media, gambling, and other sites, but that varies.
Brady says a school system’s firewalls are usually pretty tight.
“There’s ways in firewalls to only allow people to go to certain websites,” he said. “If your business or school needs to go to these handful of websites to do schoolwork, they can lock it down so you’re school can only get to those sites and that’s one of the most foolproof. But the problem with that is, kids doing research and other things, that limits that.”
Will and Ashley’s daughter was issued another laptop this school year.
They recently discovered that she not only had access to sites like Amazon, Pinterest and YouTube during school hours, but she was able to get to them off campus too, including inappropriate and graphic content.
“She had downloaded a separate browser and there was all kinds of stuff,” said Ashley. “She had created another email address so she could open accounts like Pinterest and I’m sure TikTok was next. Then within the history, there was inappropriate content and I clicked on it. It showed me really disturbing things that children and myself don’t want to look at and shouldn’t see.”
After Action News 5 reached out to the district about their issue and their concerns, some of the sites their daughter was able to access before were suddenly blocked.
But the concern is still there.
“I consented to her to use a device, but I never consented for her to be allowed to use the internet unchecked,” said Will. “Technology is a gift, but left unchecked it is incredibly dangerous and this has endangered my child and this has endangered other children in the City of Memphis.”
The district told Action News 5 in a statement, it has, “multiple security measures in place to monitor and block students from accessing inappropriate materials online, including filters and firewalls.”
MSCS did not make someone available to give any other information about how the district prevents access to inappropriate content using a different WiFi network or preventative measures so students can’t turn off security protocols.
The district also pointed to their annual Internet Safety Course and Acceptable Use Policy which they say “must be acknowledged each time a student starts their device—we encourage good digital citizenship. Our Acceptable Use Policy (Board Policy 6031) prohibits students, parents, and guardians from accessing inappropriate materials and from downloading programs to bypass our security measures. We encourage parents to have continued conversations with their children on responsible screen time.”
Will and Ashely say they also asked the district if they could install their own security program on their daughter’s laptop and were told no.
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