In speaking with educators, administrators, and teachers, I frequently find confusion about whether parental consent is necessary for online educational services, like Erticulate. This is a question our team at Erticulate takes seriously.
The short answer is, under the law, schools can provide consent on behalf of parents for online services limited to an educational context.
In the United States, the primary law that protects minors' personal information is the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The law intends to protect the personal information of children under the age of 13. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) clarifies that “COPPA does not impose obligations on schools.” It does, however, impose obligations on companies such as Erticulate, and we take great care to abide by those obligations. According to the FTC, companies covered by COPPA must take certain measures to protect children’s privacy and safety online, must provide certain information in their privacy policies, and must obtain parental consent before collecting certain types of information from kids under 13.
“In addition,” the FTC says, “companies covered by COPPA must also maintain reasonable data security practices to, for example, protect hackers from accessing student accounts.”
While the FTC guidance says COPPA specifically applies to children under 13 years of age, that’s not good enough for us. Erticulate cares for all users' personal information with the same level of use and security.
Educational institutions routinely consent to use Erticulate, enabling students to improve their ability to communicate through video lessons, and if you’re an educator, you can enable your students, too. We don’t share students' data or use it for non-educational contexts.
There is, however, one exception: we use a small number of recorded videos in Erticulate's marketing, and in those instances, we are sure to get parental consent.
Here below is an excerpt from the FTC that further addresses whether an educational institution can consent to a website or app's collection, use, or disclosure of personal information from students:
Yes. Many school districts contract with third-party website operators to offer online programs solely for the benefit of their students and the school system – for example, homework help lines, individualized education modules, online research and organizational tools, or web-based testing services. In these cases, the schools may act as the parent's agent and can consent to the collection of kids' information on the parent's behalf. However, the school's ability to consent for the parent is limited to the educational context – where an operator collects personal information from students for the use and benefit of the school, and for no other commercial purpose.
Should you have any questions, we want to hear from you. Please feel free to email us at Erticulate at firstname.lastname@example.org.