In a world where we have been ordered to stay home and shelter in place to combat the spread of COVID-10 our children are now learning remotely. While it is fortunate that technology allows students to continue the school year at home, remote learning presents an obstacle where children’s privacy is concerned.

In the United States, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) governs the collection of personal information from children under the age of 13. It generally requires the provider of a website or online service directed at children to obtain “verifiable parental consent” before collecting any personal information from children. “Verifiable parental consent” can be obtained in a number of ways—for example, through a signed consent form that is returned via mail or electronic scan, or the use of a credit card or other online payment system that provides notification of each separate transaction to the account holder—but whatever method is used must be reasonably designed to ensure that the person giving the consent is the child’s parent or legal guardian.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently provided a helpful reminder for the education technology (EdTech) companies that are enabling remote learning in this brave new world, and for the schools and parents as well, of the requirements surrounding consent in this context.

While COPPA does not apply to schools themselves, it is now more important than ever for schools to be doing their due diligence on each EdTech tool they are using by carefully reviewing the tools’ privacy and security policies. Schools should ensure these companies are deleting the students’ personal information once it is no longer needed for its educational purpose. Parents can also help by talking to their children about how to stay safe online.

Read more about COPPA consent in our recent blog post.