As a seasoned Director of Technology and Chief Technology Officer with nearly two decades of experience, Tony DePrato has successfully led numerous enterprise-level IT projects, fostered strong vendor relationships, and developed cutting-edge curricula in robotics, STEAM, and computer science. His expertise in data analysis enables him to make informed decisions that drive organizational success. As a future-thinking and detail-oriented professional, he excels in program design and implementation, as well as in tracking and measuring outcomes to ensure their success. He brings a strategic mindset, strong leadership skills, and a passion for leveraging technology to improve educational outcomes to every project he undertakes.
As responsible educators and administrators, we must prioritize our students’ safety and well-being at all times. This includes being mindful of the services and websites we allow them to access within the school environment.
It’s alarming that some services and websites openly declare that they are intended for individuals 18 or older. Not only is this inappropriate for K-12 students, but it also puts our school at risk of severe consequences.
Imagine the legal and financial repercussions of a lawsuit against our school because of inappropriate content or services that our students could access.
We must take proactive steps to ensure that all services and websites used within our school environment are appropriate for our K-12 students. This is not only our responsibility but also a moral obligation to safeguard the well-being and future of our students.
With that out of the way, let’s look at ChatGPT’s terms of service (TOS):
The OpenAI Terms of Service state:
You must be at least 13 years old to use the Services. If you are under 18, you must have your parent or legal guardian’s permission to use the Services. If you use the Services on behalf of another person or entity, you must have the authority to accept the Terms on their behalf. You must provide accurate and complete information to register for an account. You may not make your access credentials or account available to others outside your organization, and you are responsible for all activities that occur using your credentials.
Clearly, ChatGPT has undergone some recent updates. Previously the TOS stated only those 18 and older could join the service. And as expected, educators worldwide have been interpreting these changes to suit their fancy.
Before you let out a victory scream, there’s a catch. Only students over 13 can use ChatGPT and need their parents’ consent. Yes, you heard that right. Your parents need to write a letter of consent allowing you to enter into a contract with OpenAI. Don’t worry; it’s not as serious as it sounds. It’s just like letting your fifteen-year-old borrow your neighbor’s lawnmower, except you’re mowing through complex AI algorithms and matrixes instead of grass.
Now, here’s the kicker. In my eighteen years of working in education (I know, I’m practically ancient), I’ve never encountered a platform that requires such a bizarre consent letter. But hey, I’m not complaining. I’m just happy to be a part of your education journey.
I know that the truly motivated will solicit letters and attach them to records. It’s go time with ChatGPT!
But did you think about filtering content?
Before parents’ sign-up to allow their children to use ChatGPT, a school needs to explain that filtering is currently not good and will likely not work with the current filter the school uses. In most cases, a school can block ChatGPT or not block it.
A simple search for “Bypassing ChatGPT Filters” will enlighten anyone who doubts the issue with content filtering a highly sophisticated AI.
Regardless of parental consent, a filter would be legally required in some countries. Here in the USA, if a school receives E-Rate funding from the government, they have a requirement to filter content.
What does E-Rate pay for? Usually, it covers the internet connectivity and bandwidth. But who needs those? We have ChatGPT.
Pushing forward, solution seekers will get the paperwork for allowing ChatGPT without filtering and inform parents of the risks.
From this point forward, implementation will be easy. That is unless you use Google Workspaces (aka GMAIL as your school email system).
In 2021, Google keenly observed that Youtube and other websites might have inappropriate content. So, like a responsible entity, they required everyone to mark all users into age bands.
The goal was to ensure that if Google was aware of an App, service, video, etc., not being allowed for those under 18 years of age (and sometimes under 13 years of age) the content would be blocked. The school would need to take steps to unblock it or reclassify the users.
Can you think of a time when a school decided to lie to a vendor about the age of their students? I’m drawing a blank.
In order to use ChatGPT with Google email accounts, those accounts would need to be marked as over 18 (exposing them to the entirety of the internet), or the school would need to work on a manner to bypass the restrictions. Restriction bypassing in network security is tricky because of something known as microservices architecture.
If you have ever lived and worked in China, you would have seen blocked websites because of a font provided by Google, and Google services are blocked in China. Just thinking about how websites and other services use one another to create a web of low-cost solutions.
In summary, if you want to use ChatGPT to change the world and you are advocating for K-12 students to use it, then here is your playbook:
If the government you are living under has restrictions on the technology, you need an official waiver or some guidance for usage; school policy must uphold the umbrella of the legal system.
Draft a letter that explains to parents the service requires additional consent.
Explain to parents, teachers, and the IT department that it is possible (and most likely) inappropriate content will be generated from the system, and the school cannot control this.
Review any options for filtering and draft an internal memo to staff explaining that filtering efforts will be ongoing, and they need to report issues.
Don’t mess with Google; If the accounts get flagged or rejected, create emails on another platform; Do not move age bands to accommodate the product.
Wait until next fall. Likely these issues will be solved, and educators can implement a more mature product that includes the safety measures all the other educational technology solutions possess.