Bring Your Own Tech: How to Protect Your Child's Device at School

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Parents across the country are faced with some pretty big decisions related to schools’ “Bring Your Own Device” or “Bring Your Own Technology” programs that encourage students to bring electronics to school to promote technology “fluency” and enrich their education. Setting the “Will bringing a laptop/smartphone/tablet really enhance my child’s learning?” question aside for now, there are important considerations for protecting these expensive devices once they leave your home.

Not the least of these is theft. It can happen in any school, regardless of demographics. I know, because it happened to my son. Thanks to a text from his friend to her mother and then to me, I was able to alert the staff, request that my son file a police report, and ask for a review of surveillance video near the scene. His netbook was recovered in short order because the search began before the device could leave school property.

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Since then, I’ve looked for information or advice from the school system on how students can protect their devices. I found nothing -- only a disclaimer that the schools are not liable for loss or theft.

So here’s what I’ve put together from my local police department and websites including FCC.gov, theatlanticwire.com, nytimes.com and e-how.com.

Before you buy: Don’t purchase the most expensive model until your child has proven responsibility keeping up with electronics. Ask teachers what your child needs to do with the device and purchase accordingly.

Before the device leaves the house:

  • Write down the cell phone number (if applicable), serial number, model and device type –- on the sales receipt if you have it. This will verify the value of the device and provide necessary information for police and for your wireless or internet carrier.
  • For a smartphone, determine its “IMEI” number, which can be found by typing *#06# -- this will allow your wireless carrier to enter the number in a database to prevent the phone from being re-activated.
  • Label the device with a phone number and “reward if found.”
  • Protect it from damage by putting a protective case on it.
  • Deter unauthorized use by setting up a passcode or PIN code. This is usually a four-digit number. Look for this function under settings for the device.
  • Sign up with your carrier’s “find my phone/device” service, usually available through a free application downloaded to the device. Some services also allow you to “wipe” the phone clean of personal data.
  • For a smartphone, set up a backup “sync” method, whether to a cloud-based service or another device, to regularly save important information in case the device is lost or stolen.
  • For a laptop or netbook, write down the IP address, which consists of numbers separated by periods. Here’s how. Your internet provider should be able to locate your device with this number.
  • Consider installing software on a laptop or netbook that uses password-protected positioning technology to locate devices. Free open-source versions include Adeona and Prey.
  • Explain to your child that if the device is lost or stolen, the faster they alert an adult in charge, the more likely the device will be found and returned. Instruct your child to call you immediately if the device is lost or stolen. Teachers may be too busy to take the necessary steps below.

What to do if you believe the device has been stolen at school:

  • Report: Your child should report it to the school office and file a police report if there is an officer on site. Encourage staff to review surveillance camera footage of the area from which it may have been stolen.
  • Lock: Call your wireless carrier and ask them to suspend the device’s service. (There are apps available for many devices with which you can suspend service yourself from your home computer or the “cloud” if you are using an Apple device.)
  • Locate: Use the app(s) you downloaded and registered earlier to locate the phone. If it’s still on the school property, there’s a better chance of getting it back.
  • Wipe: If you have a backup service for the phone, or as a last resort even if you don’t, use the app(s) downloaded to “wipe” or erase the phone completely so that confidential information cannot be stolen.

Do your kids' schools use personal technology in the classroom?

 

Photo Credit: flickingerbrad.

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