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Grooming alert over school iPads raised by Penrice Academy parent

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: February 06, 2014

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STUDENTS at Penrice Academy could be victims of online grooming because iPads used by students at the school are not adequately protected.

That is the fear of a concerned parent who claims parental controls cannot be installed on the devices, which have been issued to all students at the school.

The father of two, who has asked not to be named for fear his children could be bullied, said staff at the school have buried their heads in the sand over the issue and are subsequently putting children are at risk.

"They (the iPads) seemed like a good idea in principle but they are in fact a complete nightmare," he said.

"I know how powerful the internet is, in fact without it I could not do my job. But I also know how dangerous it is having had to rescue a friend from internet grooming and I also know of multiple children at Penrice school who have been groomed.

"The school is aware of this yet it still continues to bury its head in the sand over the issue and decide not to protect these devices outside the walls of the school. Their main concern is protecting the devices from being stolen by enforcing tracking than the safety of the children online."

The worried father, who works for a global IT company, said when connected to wi-fi at the school children are restricted in what sites they can access but this is not the case when the students are at home, or the iPad is connected to public wi-fi.

He said: "The thing I didn't like was the bit about hooking the device up to my home wi-fi and it was my responsibility to put protection on my wi-fi.

"I asked them how can I do that? I have one child that can access Facebook and one that cannot. It is not possible to set profiles like this from a wi-fi device. Also, if you access public wi-fi like the Cloud in town, those restrictions would not apply."

Following discussions with the school, he attempted to install parental control apps on iPads but this caused problems for his children when they used the devices at school.

He said: "Well today after the teachers moaning at the kids yet again I've had enough and removed the protection back to the default of anything allowed, all apps, inappropriate content, everything, as I really don't know what to do any more."

David Parker, principal of Penrice Academy, said the school was willing to work with any parents who have concerns over how to keep their children safe online.

He said: "Out of 1,100 students, no complaint has been made to the academy about iPads and only a handful of parents have asked for support from our IT team."

Mr Parker said since the iPads were introduced they have had a "highly significant positive impact" on children's learning.

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