Parent calls for further porn protections on district iPads

Parent calls for further porn protections on district iPads
A parent in the Encinitas Union School District is asking school board officials to increase its measures to block inappropriate content from iPads issued to students from the district. Courtesy photo

ENCINITAS — Two years after the Encinitas Union School District installed filters on student iPads to restrict access to inappropriate content, at least one parent says pornography is still a problem on the machines.

Max Moore, who has two sons that attend La Costa Heights Elementary School, said his third-grade son was exposed to an inappropriate image when searching Google for an image of a popular cartoon character.

The incident prompted Moore to contact school administrators, school board members and District Superintendent Tim Baird, calling on the district to do more to limit the potential for students to be exposed to such images — including suggesting that the district eliminate internet access from iPads.

“I don’t think my third grader needs to have access to the open net, even with a filter on it,” Moore said, challenging the district to prove if the need for the internet outweighs the risk of child exposure to pornography. “If the benefit isn’t greater than the risk, I just don’t see why we should have it.”

The district has about 5,400 iPads, which were purchased after voters in 2010 approved Proposition P, a $44.2 million bond measure the district said would be used to acquire, construct, upgrade and equip school facilities.

In 2012, the school district launched its iPad program, equipping each third- through sixth-grade student with a device. Since then, this district has put iPads into the hands of all of its 5,400 students, at a cost of $2.7 million.

Moore’s concerns echo similar complaints made in 2015, when parents came to a February 2015 board meeting with concerns that the iPads did not have filters to block inappropriate images when children took their devices home, where they were disconnected from the district’s network. At the time, Baird said they were in the process of testing a filter, which was ultimately installed on the iPads.

But Moore said the filters don’t capture everything. In the case of his third-grade son, he was searching Google for an image of a Pokémon character, and saw a photo of the character with bare breasts.

Moore said that he’s not alone, and said it is a running joke among parents in the district that kids are still regularly able to bypass the filters when they are at home, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

“I wouldn’t doubt that it’s close to a thousand kids,” Moore said, when asked how many students he estimates see inappropriate content on district iPads.

Moore said that he doesn’t want to be seen as anti-technology, but said that he doesn’t want his children and other district children to be exposed to pornography before they develop their own “healthy sexuality.”

“Can we have an open and robust discussion where we acknowledge that our students are still being exposed to pornography?” Moore said, arguing that the district should be held accountable and should be tracking the porn complaints.

In a February letter, Moore said that district should clearly communicate the risk of exposure to families, provide students and families that have been exposed with counseling, work with a board-certified psychologist to develop a reporting system, “in which children and parents take a sense of pride, rather than hesitation or fear, in reporting pornography viewed on school iPads,” and should convene a panel of experts to review the district’s one-to-one system to investigate its effectiveness.

Baird said that the district doesn’t receive many complaints about porn on the iPads, so it doesn’t have a dedicated tracking system, but he estimates that the district receives a handful of complaints.

“I can think of two events this year,” Baird said, detailing Moore’s complaint and another one in which a student searched how to draw a bottom and saw a rough chalk drawing of a bottom online. In another instance last year, Baird said, a student used his iPad camera to take photos of inappropriate material off of his home computer and brought them to school.

Baird said that the district is piloting a second filter right now that would go deeper into cached images, but ultimately, he said, parents and teachers are responsible for vigilance on their end. The district has held several parent workshops and staff training sessions on the topic.

“We will use both for a while to see the results,” Baird said. “Our best filter is our teachers and parents.”

Limiting student internet access from the iPads is not the answer, Baird said.

“Our school technology is not the only portal to the internet that our students have access to in their lives,” Baird said. “Many of them have phones. They have other computers at home. Their friends have phones, iPads, and computers. Pretending that young people will not find other access to the internet is not the answer.  Instead, we need to teach our students how to responsibly deal with this resource.

“Information literacy is a critical skill that adults as well as our students need to master to successfully navigate the flood of information that they are exposed to on a daily basis in today’s world,” Baird said.

8 Comments
  1. Liz 3 months ago

    Why Is Baird comparing adults using the Internet with children?

  2. Max Moore 3 months ago

    For the record, the image was a depiction of a sex act and this is the second time in 2017 that my children have seen this sort of content at school.

  3. Max Moore 3 months ago

    For the record, the image that my son saw at school depicted a sex act and this is the second time this year that my children have seen unwanted content at school. Max

  4. Deb Mitchell 3 months ago

    “Many of them have phones … Pretending that young people will not find other access to the internet is not the answer.” Is Dr. Baird suggesting that, since students are likely to be exposed to porn somewhere, it’s no big deal that it happens at school? By this logic, let’s bring in alcohol and drugs, too! After all, they’ll be exposed to it somewhere. No one is pretending kids won’t find “bad” things in life, but it’s not too much to ask that they don’t easily find them at school. And, if they do, the adult in charge should at least feign concern, even if he can’t muster anything sincere. Appalling!

  5. Karen Lee 3 months ago

    I wish Dr. Baird would leave the tired, institutional rhetoric behind. I know he’s a politician at best, but it would be nice if he pretended to have the best interests of children (yes, 3rd graders are children, not “young people”) at heart. Nothing he said is a direct comment on the situation Mr. Moore has brought up. I invite him to join the conversation at hand.

  6. jennifer mobley 3 months ago

    I am so glad I moved out of this area! Encinitas is forever ruined. I lived here my whole life.

  7. Suzann Maxin 3 months ago

    This article hits close to home, as my son experienced similar trauma on an Encinitas School District issued device while at school. My fifth grader began to experience panic attacks and did not want to go to school. After this happening a couple of times, he finally told me that he had spent quite a bit of time, with other students, viewing animated pornography, while in class. I was shocked and notified the teacher but did not pursue the issue, as my son feared retribution from his classmates. This is a serious situation that needs to be addressed. The children must be supervised and monitored, because as we know, the internet can be a dark scary place, especially for young, impressionable and inquisitive children.

  8. Lee 3 months ago

    The open internet is probably less of a problem than the school sponsored “research databases” – believe it or not – officials admit that common “top site” filtering cannot reach content internal to subscriber databases such as EBSCO (explora, consumer health, novelist, mas ultra and others). EBSCO produces online databases for elementary, middle and high school and have been exposed for knowingly streaming pornographic content which bypasses filtering systems. EBSCO sold to 50,000 schools nation-wide and recently named to the 2017 DIRTY DOZEN list by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation as a major contributor the sexual exploitation of women and children http://endsexualexploitation.org/ebsco/

    Parents: Heads up – if you are worried about your children online – find out whether your school has EBSCO, Proquest and other online databases – ask your school to cancel the subscriptions

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