From time to time we get questions from parents about monitoring student online activity, or advice on shaping how and when the iPads can be used by students. Below is information on the tools available to you as parents and the resources that we have at the school. Each student brings their own unique circumstances, so if you would like to discuss this further, please start with your student's educational team (teachers, guidance, principals) and they will be able to assist you in deciding if some of these technical options are appropriate for you. Sometimes the best course of action is to focus on the target behavior, such as negative language or bullying, rather than try to control the technology. None of these solutions are fool-proof, and used in isolation may simply move a negative behavior over to a different forum rather than stop it. Your student's team will bring in IT if they feel that it is warranted.
GOOGLE (E-Mail, Drive/Docs)
If you want to be able to log into your student's MyMTSD account, we can change their password and give it to you. We cannot lock the password, so you and your student will need to have an understanding about not changing the shared password.
Viewing Emails (Admin)
We are legally required to retain email messages for a set period of time. If a school administrator requests it, we use Google Vault to retrieve email messages, even if they have been deleted. This process must be initiated by a principal.
Viewing Docs (Admin)
We have the ability to print or view Google Docs, in read-only format, but we cannot edit or share those docs. Your student can share their docs with you, or you can use a shared password and log into their account (see above). This process must be initiated by a principal.
Restrict Outside Access
Google gives us the ability to restrict outside sharing if it is requested, both for email and other Google Apps. We can restrict an account so that it can only send/receive email within MyMTSD, or by selected outside email addresses. The downside of this action is that emails from legitimate 3rd party companies with which we have educational services with, such as Apple and Khan Academy, may be interrupted which will cause a delay in classwork while we work through the issue.
For students who store documents on their H drive or any of the shared student drives, we do have the ability to remotely access and view those files. We do so only at the request of the parents/guardians, or a principal (or his/her designee).
SCHOOLOGY AND POWERSCHOOL
Both Schoology and PowerSchool have parent logins available. The main office can provide you with your access codes to set up accounts. For more information on PowerSchool, please click here. For more information on Schoology, please click here.
About iPad Management
We use a central management system for our iPads. This program allows us to issue commands remotely, which get sent through the Internet to a device. We no longer need to have the device physically present to configure it and send apps, though we do collect them over the summer for a health check and upgrade. This system is dependent on the device being properly enrolled in management, and being connected to the Internet. When we find that a device is not responding to commands, we wipe the device to clear the settings and force it into management that cannot be altered or removed. iPads that were managed when we originally started our program 3 years ago were able to have the management removed; thanks to recent chances by Apple, this is no longer possible. However, there are still a few iPads that may have the setting removed that have not remedied the problem. If you feel that your student's device is not receiving management commands, please alert us immediately to remedy the problem.
The IT Department can disable a student's webcam. We feel that in most situations, the educational value of having the webcam enabled outweighs the cons. However, there are times when parents or a student's educational team feel that it's not a good choice for a student, and we can disable it.
There are certain types of apps that allow students to bypass the school's Internet filter. These are disallowed by school policy. If the management system detects one of these apps on the student's iPad, it is automatically disabled and the student must visit IT to have it re-enabled and the app removed. This is sometimes called "bricking" the iPad. There are other parameters that we can use to determine when to 'brick' an iPad. It is a setting that we use as a last resort.
Cannot Take Home
At the parent/team request, we can place the students on a list that need to turn their iPad in at the end of the day, and who cannot take them home. Although IT maintains the list, the iPads are left either in the Library or with a trusted team member, such as a special educator.
Device Usage and Monitoring
At this time, Apple does not provide the tools to us to monitor the specific usage of an iPad. There may be third party apps that monitor the time spent in various apps, but we do not have any available at MTSD. We can run an Internet History report for the student's device, but the time window through which we can look only goes back three days, because of the way that iPads are logged in the system. Our PC computers are able to go back further.
For some students, social media or games can become an unwelcome distraction or even an addiction. There are a few apps that a parent or IT can place on a student's device that will regulate the amount of time spent on the iPad or an iPhone. One of these apps is called Kaboom App Timer. When the app is loaded on to the iPad, you configure it with a passcode of your choosing, and then set two timers: use time and break time. When you start the app, it will sit in the background while the device is used. Then when it reaches is the use time limit, it starts to continually show messages "Time for a break" which render the iPad useless. These messages run until the break time limit is reached, and then they stop. Then it runs again for the use time limit, and the process starts over again. Be sure to turn this timer off before the student leaves for school, otherwise school work may be disrupted. Fore more information about Kaboom, please click here. Another app is called OurPact, which goes further to shape your students' screen time. More information about OurPact can be found here.
We recommend that parents consider purchasing an iOS app that can be used on both their students' iPads as well as their personal phones. These apps are not purchased by or supported by the school, but they do give you extra tools if you feel that your students' device times need some limitations. We find that many students use their personal mobile phones to access social media and school-filtered sites during the day, and these are devices that the schools have little to no technological control of, since they use the phone's data plan rather than our network. Here is more information about installing personal apps on a school-issued iPad.
Disable App Store, iTunes, Safari, and other Restrictions
IT disables 'adult content' for all students. This includes 17+ rated apps, R-rated media content and other settings as deemed appropriate by administrators. Additional restrictions are available to both families and IT. You and your team can go to Settings > General > Restrictions, and enter a passcode of your choosing to turn on Restrictions. Then with Restrictions enabled you can use the slider buttons to turn on and off different features of the iPad. Please note that if you disable the App Store, IT can still send apps to the iPad if it is running iOS version 8 or greater. Turning on the restrictions with your team enables certain features to be turned on and off at will, with a passcode you share together, allowing temporary access to certain features when they are needed for class. If you want these restrictions to be enabled permanently, IT can also levy these restrictions from the server.
Please browse these other articles for additional tips on how to manage an iOS device. Many students use personal smart phones for their social and gaming time, so these articles are also very helpful for securing your students' devices whether they are personal or school-issued.
STUDENTS' PERSONAL DEVICES
The schools have very little control over the students' personal devices. While on school grounds, the students can elect to use our filtered wi-fi network, or they can remain on their unfiltered data plan through their phone carrier. We cannot control the apps downloaded or used by students. It is against school policy to use personal devices during class time, unless specifically allowed by the instructor. However, as the parent you have additional options to track and shape your students' devices and use.
1. Monitoring and time-shaping apps. If you look at the section above 'Enforced Breaks', there are a couple of apps recommended that allow you to limit the times that students can access texts, calls, and data, as well as the amount of time they are active on the device. Please note that unless you turn on Restrictions to prevent app deletion, students can delete some of these apps off of their phones once it's back in their hands, so they can't be used without a conversation about your expectations.
2. Options from your mobile carrier. The staff at your local ATT, Verizon and other mobile carrier stores will be happy to assist you with all of the options that they provide for parental controls. This may include the ability to block numbers at the carrier level (not just blocking them through the phone's contacts), limiting the amount of data used, or accessing a web site to turn on/off data or other features to one of your lines. They may also offer apps or other features on a monthly fee basis; for example for an additional $10 per month ATT offers a service to give you additional monitoring and control over the phones in your account, up to 10 lines. Other carriers may do the same.
Share Your Success Stories
If you have found a way to manage your students' digital activities, either though a tech tip or a behavioral strategy, your student's educational team would love to hear from you. Parenting in the 21st century is a challenge, and the more we can share and support each other the better. Students, if you have suggestions on how you have come to a trust and understanding with your family on screen time and social media, we'd love to hear your opinions too!