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Federal Trade Commission Updates COPPA: Will Your District Be Ready for the 2013-14 School Year?

This article was published in the Summer 2013 MACUL Journal.

Are you aware of the new revisions to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)? The changes will become effective on July 1, 2013, so schools need to begin making plans now to ensure that they are in full compliance of the law for the 2013-2014 school year.

COPPA governs how data is collected and then used for children under the age of 13. The Federal Trade Commission updated the 1998 law to strengthen children’s privacy and make sure that parents are informed and involved in their children’s online activities. The law requires web sites and online services to obtain parental approval in order for minors under the age of 13 to use them. The list of personal information that cannot be captured without parental consent includes geo-location information, photographs, audio files, and videos that contain a child’s image or voice, along
with IP addresses and mobile device IDs.

Written parental consent must be obtained for the use of all online sites and services such as Google Apps for Education, Edmodo, Animoto, and Glogster.

The amendment requires online sites and services to take reasonable steps to make sure that children’s personal information is released only to service providers and third parties that are capable of maintaining the confidentiality, security, and integrity of such information, and who assure that they will do so. The amendment also requires operators to retain children’s personal information for only as long as is reasonably necessary, and to protect against unauthorized access or use while the information is being disposed of.

The law protects children from having their personal information tracked and shared by online sites. Educating children about how to safely navigate the Internet is as important as knowing the details of the law and its amendments. The FTC and other organizations offer guidelines for teachers and parents to effectively teach kids about Internet safety. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has a Children’s Online Privacy guideline which includes tips about privacy rights, parental consent, how to look for the privacy “seal of approval”, and a guideline for setting family rules about Internet use. The FTC’s Site Seeing on the Internet web page has a template for a parent-child or school-child contract as a means for establishing rules for Internet usage, including giving out personal information without parental consent, password protection, and sharing pictures or other identifiable media. OnGuardOnline.gov is a Federal Trade Commission resource for free information about online scams, computer security, protecting kids online, and includes a page just for K-12 educators and IT professionals.


Pam Shoemaker, ED.S. is the MACUL President Elect. She serves as the Technology Instructional Coach for the Walled Lake Consolidated School District. Contact her at Follow her on Twitter @shoemap.

Terri Gustafson, M.A., is a member of the MACUL Board of Directors. She is the Assistant Director of the Center for Teaching and Technology in the College of Education at Michigan State University. Contact her at Follow her on Twitter at @tgustafson.