WHEN TENS OF millions of students suddenly had to learn remotely, schools lent laptops and tablets to those without them. But those devices typically came with monitoring software, marketed as a way to protect students and keep them on-task. Now, some privacy advocates, parents, and teachers say that software created a new digital divide, limiting what some students could do and putting them at increased risk of disciplinary action.
One day last fall, Ramsey Hootman’s son, then a fifth grader in the West Contra Costa School District in California, came to her with a problem: He was trying to write a social studies report when the tabs on his browser kept closing. Every time he tried to open a new tab to study, it disappeared.