09/02/2014 11:28 am ET Updated Nov 01, 2014

Understand and Protect Your Kids' Privacy at School

As schools are increasingly going digital, parents should be asking some important questions about what apps their kids are using at school, what data is being collected, and how the information collected is being used. If the whole issue of privacy is new and the phrase "personally identifiable information" doesn't mean anything to you, it is time to get started and educate yourself!

Dan Tynan, Yahoo's Tech Columnist, recommends the following checklist for parents:

  • Do your own research
  • Ask teachers about websites used in class.
  • Ask administrators about the school's use of data.
  • Monitor your school's web and social media sites.
  • Read every educational app's privacy policy.
  • Minimize your data entry.
  • Opt-out early and often.
  • Make your voice heard.

While all of the nine steps are important, there are a couple of things worth calling out for the uninitiated.

The U.S. Department of Education has its own site detailing student privacy rules. The Electronic Privacy Information Center maintains a news and information site about student privacy, as do Harvard's Berkman Center and Common Sense Media. EdSurge, a site sponsored by companies that specialize in educational technology, offers its own guide here.

If a service or an app is free, you can bet the company that makes it plans to make money by using your data -- or your child's, if he's 13 or older. That's why reading privacy policies is a boring yet necessary part of this process. Every company, regardless of pedigree, is legally obligated to follow its published policies, though they could change at any time.

Most parents couldn't be bothered to spend time on what is essentially a "what if" precaution. As Dan puts it in his own inimitable style, coming up to speed on student privacy "ranks with watching paint dry as entertainment, but it's sadly necessary."