Virtual learning. Social distancing. Zoom classes. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, most schools these days are closed, turning every home with children into a home school of some sort. This often involves having students use a variety of online platforms for classes and assignments. Kids are now online more than they have ever been, not just for school, but also for socializing and gaming, and parents who can work from home are often juggling trying to help their kids with school while managing their own workload at the same time. As a member of the “Oregon Trail” generation (which takes its name from the popular 1970s video game “Oregon Trail”), I know what life was like both before and after the advent of the Internet. And having grown up in the Wild West of bulletin boards and AOL Instant Messenger, I do not envy parents today who have to contend with privacy concerns for their children across the variety of devices and platforms that their children use. The law around keeping children safe online has become more complex in recent years thanks to the implementation of various state laws, and parents also have to consider the specific privacy policies and practices of different companies and platforms, and game or app rules. This complexity is amplified by the reality that the technology is often advancing much too fast for the law to keep up, leaving parents and regulators with gaps between the apps/platforms/tech and the laws designed to regulate their operations.
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