National Poll Commissioned by Common Sense Media Reveals Deep Concern for How Students' Personal Information Is Collected, Used, and Shared

Americans Overwhelmingly Support Reforms to Protect Students, Including Increased Transparency, Tighter Security Standards, and More Restrictions on Companies and Cloud Services

Common Sense Media
Wednesday, January 22, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - Common Sense Media, the leading national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping families and educators thrive in the digital world, has released the results of a national survey showing American adults are concerned about how kids' personal data may be used to market to them, both at home and at school.

Eighty-nine percent of Americans, whether they're parents or not, are very or somewhat concerned about advertisers using kids' personal data to market to them. Many parents are in the dark about the private information schools collect and store online, as almost six in 10 parents have heard little or nothing about schools letting private companies store personal data about their children. When informed that most school contracts don't limit these companies from using the information for marketing, there is overwhelming concern from both parents and non-parents around the country.

"What we are hearing from American families is that students' personal and private information must not be used for advertising, period," said Jim Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media. "Privacy in general is a major concern for Americans, and what we are clearly seeing from this poll is that schools should be completely off-limits when it comes to collecting the personal information of students for marketing purposes. The school zone must, at all times, be a safe privacy zone. It is critical that educators, the technology industry, and our nation's leaders establish universal best practices that safeguard students' personal information that is collected by schools."

The telephone poll of 800 adults conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group for Common Sense Media from January 6 to 10 shows that:

1. 90% of adults are concerned about how non-educational interests are able to access and use students' personal information.

2. There is strong support for the implementation of policies to protect students, including:

· Increasing transparency by requiring schools to notify parents before they share students' personal data with private companies (91%)

· Creating tighter security standards to protect students' private information that is stored "in the cloud" (89%)

· Making it illegal for schools and education-technology companies to sell students' private information to advertisers (77%)

· Restricting companies from using students' online habits and searches on school computers to target online advertisements to them (74%)

· Restricting cloud services such as Google from using students' email, online searches, and Web histories to build profiles of personal data and demographics over time (70%)

3. Twenty-eight percent of parents don't know anything about some schools' use of web-based or online services to store students' data, including such details as age, weight, attendance and grades;

4. Very few voters believe the argument that tighter regulations will stifle innovation, increase costs, or be overly burdensome.

· Eighty-six percent of Americans agree that protecting children's safety and personal information should be the No. 1 priority, whereas only 11 percent said that regulations would be overly burdensome and stifle innovation.

In 2013, Common Sense Media launched a School Privacy Zone campaign to engage edtech industry leaders, educators, policymakers, parents, and other stakeholders to develop safeguards for students' personal information. On February 24, Common Sense Media will convene a national summit in D.C. featuring key stakeholders and policymakers, including the Secretary of Education, to outline practices that support connected classrooms that respect and safeguard student privacy. Legislation has been introduced in several states to address the concerns of parents, and Senator Ed Markey announced last week that he will introduce federal legislation in the coming days.

Steyer added, "There is no doubt that Americans believe student information must be protected. If the technology industry and educators don't take the initiative to protect students, there will be legislative action. We sincerely hope that leaders can come together quickly to address these concerns so that students can benefit from the powerful education technologies available without compromising their personal information."

For more information about the summit, contact Crista Sumanik, [email protected].

Common Sense Media 
is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology. We exist because our kids are growing up in a culture that profoundly impacts their physical, social, and emotional wellbeing. We provide families with the advice and media reviews they need to make the best choices for their children. Through our education programs and policy efforts, Common Sense Media empowers parents, educators, and young people to become knowledgeable and responsible digital citizens. For more information, go to

Press Contact

Crista Sumanik

[email protected]