In this new chapter; I'm looking into privacy for kids. In today's digital age, where everyone is online pretty much 24/7 it is even more important to have a secure and safe setup for the little ones as well as for the teenagers (who think they know it all).

A major issue we've encountered since the arrival of COVID-19 has been learning from home and many schools 'adapted' to this new normal by using some horrible software to do so. My wife's cousin, for example, needs to use TikTok for her PE classes. Updates for my kid come in via Facebook Messenger (and email for me!) and Zoom is what they use most days, all day long for schooling. And all this despite there being so many much better solutions, more privacy-friendly solutions out there. BigBlueButton for example. But it seems some schools are happy using everything that is against privacy all day long...Google Docs, Microsoft etc. etc. all for the education of our kids.

BigBlueButton For Schools
Nearly all major LMS vendors have created native integrations with BigBlueButton. Why? Because we are focused on the needs of the teacher and student.

I will shortly publish a chapter in the Privacy Cookbook specifically for schools where I write from deep in my heart and hope everyone who has kids forwards it to their kids school and tries to convince them to look at changing away from some of these softwares.

But what to do now? I understand your kid has little or no choice as to their schools use of invasive software.

Maybe make a start by explaining to the teachers and administrators there that it is not ok to upload your kids' picture on Facebook, it is your right to demand this and they must ask permission!! And even if they receive the picture via Messenger, this doesn't mean they can just upload any such image onto the school's Facebook page.

Make a School Only Setup

Have a device reserved only for school! Linux is, of course, the best solution and use Firefox as the browser. Then you can use Zoom and Facebook, when forced to, and all the other privacy invasive crap via the browser only! It's even better when using browser containers.

Facebook Container – Get this Extension for 🦊 Firefox (en-US)
Prevent Facebook from tracking you around the web. The Facebook Container extension for Firefox helps you take control and isolate your web activity from Facebook.
Google Container – Get this Extension for 🦊 Firefox (en-US)
THIS IS NOT AN OFFICIAL ADDON FROM MOZILLA! It is a fork of the Facebook Container addon. Prevent Google from tracking you around the web. The Google Container extension helps you take control and isolate your web activity from Google.

If you use the computer after school for other things, separate school and private life with multiple container setups.

Firefox Multi-Account Containers – Get this Extension for 🦊 Firefox (en-US)
Firefox Multi-Account Containers lets you keep parts of your online life separated into color-coded tabs that preserve your privacy. Cookies are separated by container, allowing you to use the web with multiple identities or accounts simultaneously.

If you make the switch to a Linux device consider firejailing your browser. This will make sure the browser can only access the download folder (or any folder you specify during the setup). In other words Facebook, Zoom, Google and the like can only access the browser itself and the download folder. You can later move downloads to other folders, so this is not stopping the ability to save things for school for later.

Follow these instructions on how to install Firejail from the official GitHub page:

netblue30/firejail
Linux namespaces and seccomp-bpf sandbox. Contribute to netblue30/firejail development by creating an account on GitHub.

Afterwards, just start up your terminal and type:

firejail firefox

Or if you want your entire desktop setup firejailed, just type:

firecfg --fix-sound
sudo firecfg

If you don't use Linux, but instead perhaps an iPad, MacOS or even Windows computer consider a NextDNS setup - you can control the services that can be used and block others as deemed necessary.

NextDNS has a solution for every device and all are easy to integrate. I highly recommend this solution for having more control over your kids online access and behaviors. If you choose, you can log the traffic for a specific amount of time or specified period of time then check what websites your kid is using and what background apps are 'traffic-kimg' on your network. You can then block as required. An easy tool that every parent can adopt and it will help you sleep easier. NextDNS has a large number of apps and services that can be blocked and an extensive array of blocklists. It will give you less to no ads when in use so consider using it yourself.

Alternatively, just allow them to be used at a specific time.

Additionally, you can adjust the screen on time on iOS and macOS devices. Surely something you can dig more deeply into in order to address your individual circumstances but I will have an entire write-up on this soon.

The main point is that your kids need their formal education, but even when at home they still need protection and you shouldn't give in to everything the school wants you to do, you can restrain the connection to the device.

Remember, your kid is in a development phase and social cooling is a serious thing.

Social Cooling and our kids Privacy in the age of social media
Social Cooling is a phenomena that has manifested itself in recent times and is based on the premise that as Big Tech becomes more intrusive in crafting our individual profiles, the more people are backing away from indulging in the more ‘social’ aspects of social media. In fact, the surprising cor…

Separate school from their private device if you can. If they only have one device, and it's a laptop or desktop, then maybe go the Linux route. Isolate and use most apps in the browser, and make sure other kids and parents and, of course, the school itself is not using your kids' screenshots or pictures on their social media pages. You have rights and in doing this you are protecting those of your children for now and into the future! You are their custodian and guardian, remember this when pushing back.

Stay safe, stay secure!

The Privacy Advocate