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Chromebook Safety Issues: Are Chromebooks Safe for Students?

Words by
Jackie Baucom

OCT 04, 2023

Chromebook Safety Issues: Are Chromebooks Safe for Students?

In recent years, Chromebooks have become increasingly popular in educational settings. These lightweight, affordable laptops have gained traction in schools nationwide due to their ease of use and integration with Google’s suite of educational tools. It’s not an overstatement to say they’ve transformed the way students and teachers interact with technology.

Approximately 72% of Chromebooks are sold to educational institutions.

When the Covid-19 Pandemic hit, schools relied heavily on these computers as districts shifted to remote learning. Today, kids are back to school in-person, but the dependence on Chromebooks continues for many districts both inside and outside the classroom. Are these laptops helping kids succeed in school, or are they a distraction? 

male child talking to female teacher on laptop video call

Benefits of Chromebooks in Schools

A 2008 study by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System concluded that students who have access to a computer at home are 6-8% more likely to graduate from high school. These findings may be fifteen years old, but plenty of other studies since then have come to the same conclusion: Technology bridges the gap between high and low-income students by allowing disadvantaged kids to complete assignments, research, and learn skills that will benefit them in their future careers.

Managed devices

In educational settings, Chromebooks are managed by the school or district’s IT department. This centralized management allows for security features and content filtering to be applied to all devices, ensuring a safer online environment. 

Educational apps and tools

The Chrome Web Store and Google Play Store offer a wide range of educational apps and tools vetted for safety and appropriateness. Teachers and administrators can choose apps that align with the curriculum and meet safety standards.

Easy integration with Google Workspace for Education

Chromebooks integrate seamlessly with Google Workspace for Education, a suite of productivity tools that includes Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. This integration enhances collaboration, simplifies document sharing, and allows teachers to monitor student progress easily. Research by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) found that Google Workspace for Education positively impacts student engagement and collaboration.

User permissions

Chrome OS allows administrators, including teachers and parents, to control and monitor device usage. This includes setting up restrictions, managing app installations, and monitoring web browsing activity.

little girl on laptop at dining table

Chromebook Safety Issues

While Chromebooks offer various benefits for students and educators, they also come with certain safety concerns that need to be addressed. A big concern we’ve heard from parents is that kids can often access YouTube on these devices. YouTube has some great content, but also plenty of questionable and dangerous videos. Other issues to consider are listed below.

Privacy concerns

The use of Chromebooks in schools raises concerns about data privacy. Google, the company behind Chromebooks, collects user data, including student data, which can be used for advertising purposes. While Google pledges to protect students’ personal information, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has raised concerns about data collection practices.

Inappropriate content

Chromebooks rely on an internet connection for most features and functionalities. This may expose students to inappropriate or harmful content online that is not suitable for their age or educational needs.

44% of teens exposed to porn during school hours saw it on a school issued device

A recent study from Common Sense Media found, “41% of teens who said they have ever been exposed to pornography reported that they have been exposed during the school day.” What’s more, “[44% of] respondents who had seen pornography during the school day said they had seen it on a school-issued device.”

Cyberbullying, online harassment, and phishing

Like any internet-enabled device, Chromebooks can be used for cyberbullying, online harassment, and even phishing attacks. 

Distractions

Along with the educational apps that can be added to Chromebooks, there are also games. Being engrossed in screens playing games can distract kids from class and homework time. Additionally, this reduces face-to-face social interactions and connections with peers.

father and son pointing to a laptop

Are Chromebooks safe and secure?

School-issued Chromebooks vary in how safe and secure they are. It really depends on your child’s school district. The district’s IT department makes decisions on what they allow on their devices. Some are more lenient than others, but parents can further protect their kids by learning how to add child safety to Chromebooks.

Set up Parental Controls

Use Google Family Link to set up parental controls for your child’s Chromebook. This tool allows you to manage screen time, approve app installations, and monitor their online activity. 

Use Safe Browsing settings

Enable Google’s Safe Browsing feature in Chrome settings to warn against visiting potentially harmful websites.

Keep software up to date

Ensure that the Chromebook’s operating system and software are up to date with the latest security patches and updates. This is typically done automatically but it’s not a bad idea to double check that auto-updates are enabled.

Have regular conversations with your child

The most important protection any parent can provide their child in a digital age is to foster open, loving, and ongoing conversations about tech use. At Gabb, we’re big proponents of tech in steps—giving your child a gradual, tailored introduction to technology. But sooner or later they will need to learn how to use devices or apps that present some level of risk. 

Maintaining a trusting relationship with your child will allow you to teach them crucial digital skills and help them respond to digital dangers in healthy, productive ways.

online safety illustration

Chromebook Safety for Students

When in doubt, don’t be afraid to reach out directly to the school’s IT department. They may be able to help you set up additional protection, or even investigate concerns about weak safeguards. 

Continue talking to your kids about online etiquette to ensure a safer and more productive digital learning experience on school Chromebooks. It’s essential to recognize that no technology is entirely foolproof, and safety depends on how Chromebooks are used and managed. 

Parents can be positive role models by demonstrating responsible online behavior, including respectful communication and good digital citizenship

Tell us about your experience with Chromebooks

Is your child using a Chromebook at school? How has their experience been? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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