After siblings’ exposure to inappropriate content, SM South student asks district to change iPad standards for elementary kids

Shoshana White, a SM South sophomore, told the board that elementary students are too young to be expected to police their own use of iPads.

This spring, a Brookridge Elementary student told the Shawnee Mission Board of Education that he was concerned with the amount of time his fellow students were spending on their district-issued iPads each day.

On Monday, another Shawnee Mission student voiced serious concerns about implementation of the 1:1 initiative at the elementary level as well.

Shoshana White is a sophomore at SM South. She has five siblings attending district schools: three at Trailwood, one at Indian Woods and one at SM South. In comments at Monday’s board of education meeting, White said her young siblings had been exposed to inappropriate content on their district-issued iPads, and encouraged district officials to take a different approach to content management for elementary school students.

As an example, White noted that her 1st grade sibling’s class had been studying how chickens are born. The teacher asked students to find a picture of a baby chicken and set it as the home screen on their iPads.

“Boy were we surprised when my sibling came home with a photo of two ladies in skimpy bikinis — ‘chicks’ — as their home screen,” White said.

She noted that she had been able to find “pictures of any body part” as well as definitions of curse words on her brother’s iPad. What’s more, she said, seemingly innocent searches can lead to students seeing graphic content.

“If you’ve ever played a band instrument, you know that there are fingering charts to show you where to put your fingers for each note,” White said. “However, if you look up fingering and go to images, a fingering chart is not even close to what comes up.”

She provided a print out of the results that came up from that search to members of the board.

White said that these examples show that the district needs to change its standards of accessibility for younger students. She noted that district officials have cited a desire to have students learn to regulate their own use of technology as one of the goals of the 1:1 initiative. However, she said, younger students aren’t always capable of making the right choices.

“I understand that kids need to be learning to use unfiltered technology. But that skill shouldn’t be developed in elementary school. And probably not in middle school either. The time to start letting kids restrict themselves is high school,” she said.

Young students’ access to inappropriate content on district devices was among the top issues raised by a group of parents who have been encouraging the district to do more to manage the devices it issues each student. Many of those same parents expressed frustrations with the district’s Digitally Learning Task Force, which they say did not take concerns about problems with students’ technology use seriously enough.

Following the filing of the task force’s report, the district issued a set of guidelines to building principals ahead of the new school year, including that elementary students shouldn’t be on iPads at recess. In her remarks, White thanked the district for that recommendation.

You can see video of White’s full remarks below: