Parental Control of Technology

kids on tech
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

As the new school year begins for all students this week, a series titled "Parental Control" appears from Mozilla (Firefox) about ways to empower parents for some technology challenges. That sounds like a good thing, but particularly when it applies to schools, parental control has cons along with pros.

Many digital platforms offer parental control settings. The most common and most popular allows parents to shield young people from “inappropriate” content. Restricting "mature content" and what is "inappropriate" takes us into a controversial area. Who defines what should be restricted? Mozilla says that "the way platforms identify what that means is far from perfect."

YouTube has apologized after its family-friendly “Restricted Mode” recently blocked videos by gay, bisexual and transgender creators, sparking complaints from users. Restricted Mode is an optional parental-control feature that users can activate to avoid content that’s been flagged by an algorithm.

That example takes me back to the earliest days of the Internet in K-12 schools when filters would block searches for things like "breast cancer" because "breast" was on the list of blocked words.

Limiting screen time is another strategy and is within a parent's control but is certainly controversial within a family. Kids don't like their screen time to be limited.

Mozilla actually had questions for itself about what to call the series. They quote Jenny Radesky, an MD and Associate Professor of Pediatrics-Developmental/Behavioral at the University of Michigan, as saying that “Parental mediation is [a better] term, parental engagement is another – and probably better because it implies meaningful discussion or involvement to help kids navigate media, rather than using controlling or restricting approaches.” She pointed to research that suggests letting children manage their own media consumption may be more effective than parental control settings offered by apps.

The internet has risks, but so do parental controls. Many kids in the LGBTQI+ community can be made vulnerable by tech monitoring tools.

Sensitive information about young people can be exposed to teachers and campus administrators through the school devices they use.

As parents and eductaors, we want to protect students, especially the youngest ones. We als want to, as a society, instill in younger generations why privacy matters.


Electronic Frontier Foundation


College Applications Up and Admissions Down in 2022

military students

The pandemic made the already declining college application numbers even lower. The pandemic continues to affect college applications in 2022, but there is some mixed hope. There is a general increase in college applicants, but a decrease in college acceptance rates. While applications are up, enrollment is down in many places. Undergraduate enrollment, for instance, dropped by 4.7% in spring 2022, or by more than 662,000 students, compared to spring 2021, according to recent data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The increased number of test-optional schools, the elimination of SAT subject tests, and financial concerns are just some factors affecting the numbers.

Some higher education experts say that this year also resulted in a very high number of students on wait lists. Pandemic-era uncertainty is another holdover factor that has admissions officials trying to protect what's known as “yield”; that is, the number of students admitted who choose to attend.

I don't typically read articles on but it was referenced in another post I read about applications to the nation’s service academies dropping significantly last year. That is the same as what the overall declines in college enrollment have indicated the past 5 years, but the military's problem seems to be even greater.

For example, 8,393 people applied this past year to the Air Force Academy. That is a 28 percent drop from the year before. The U.S. Naval Academy saw a 20% application drop for the recently reported Class of 2026. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point saw about a 10% decrease from the prior year, but that actually better than the number of applications for the recent 2022 and 2023 classes.

Only 8 percent of young Americans have seriously considered joining the military, according to the Pentagon. And only 25 percent of that small pool of potential students are eligible for service. Potential recruits who are overweight or are screened out due to minor criminal infractions (including the use of recreational drugs such as marijuana) are stopped in the application process.

When I was working at a university, we had a good number of active military students. They were especially interested in online learning. I had a student one semester who was on an aircraft carrier during the Gulf War taking my course to prepare for his life after the military. I wonder how the numbers have changed the past few years about military students who are taking classes outside of the academies?

Digital Wallets


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


Digital wallets are tools to collect workers’ learner and employment records. They are not a new thing and have gone through different names and conceptualizations. In 2018, I was working with "badges" but it wasn't new then. I had worked with the Mozilla Foundation that was developing an Open Badges Infrastructure in 2012 (around the time that MOOCs exploded on the learning scene).

Open Badges is still around and on their site, they claim to be "the world's leading format for digital badges. Open Badges is not a specific product or platform, but a type of digital badge that is verifiable, portable, and packed with information about skills and achievements. Open Badges can be issued, earned, and managed by using a certified Open Badges platform. Want to build new technologies to issue, display, or host Open Badges? The Open Badges standard is a free and open specification available for adoption."

The idea of digital wallets has been talked about again now around the trend of skills-based hiring. If you have read that companies are more likely to hire based on skills rather than degrees, then some way - such as a wallet - that lets individuals collect and share verifiable records of their schooling, work, training programs, military service, and other experience is necessary. This is a work in progress, though you might expect that if this idea has been around for at least ten years that it might have gotten further.

There is a push for common technical standards among wallet developers to allow importing data from a variety of sources and sharing that via employers’ applicant-tracking systems.

When I was exploring badges a decade ago, I was also looking at Competency-Based Education (CBE) and mastery as related to higher education degrees. A simplified explanation of the difference from the view of an employer: MASTERY is measuring what they know. COMPETENCY is what they can do. Formal education has always been more focused on mastery rather than competency. Employers have those priorities reversed.


Posts related to badges