Guest Viewpoint

5 Things Your Students are doing on Their Devices that You Can't See

Schools came a long way this past year in effectively implementing online learning and providing devices to every student so education could continue during the pandemic. As schools resume for 2021-22, there will be an unprecedented number of student devices in use in school buildings which can bring new challenges for teachers as they try to reengage students in learning and keep them focused and on task. Although many schools have some safeguards in place to monitor what students are doing on their devices, there are some activities that often fall through the cracks which can disrupt learning. Below are five activities that students may be doing on their devices that their teachers often miss.

5 Activities That Go Undetected

  • Watching videos — If you know any kids today, you know that binge-watching their favorite series on Netflix is a real thing. So while the ability to access videos for assigned educational purposes can be helpful, if students have unbridled access to streaming video platforms they can get distracted from the task at hand and it can expose them to inappropriate content.

  • Playing games — Cloud gaming platforms allow gaming on multiple devices which means students can use their classroom devices to access games such as Fortnight, Overwatch, and Mario Kart. There is a good chance students are going to try and play their favorite game on their device while in class.

  • Opening Computer Apps — While computer apps are a necessity for learning using technology, there are thousands or millions of apps that are not appropriate for a school setting. Unless the school’s network administrator blocks access to the app store, students are going to download apps and use them during class. Not only can apps be a waste of precious instructional time, downloading apps that aren’t approved or required for schoolwork can expose the network to potential viruses.

  • Taking Selfies — I don’t know of a teen who does not want to see themselves in pictures. The majority of devices students use have built-in cameras, so undoubtedly students will use them throughout the day to take selfies. While cameras are great tools for certain school projects, they can also be yet another distraction, and may have students worrying about taking a great selfie for social media rather than concentrating on their work. Access to cameras can also bring about privacy concerns if students are taking and sharing pictures of classmates without their permission.

  • Chatting with their friends — No longer do students have to worry only about getting caught passing a note to a friend. With multiple ways for students to chat online, students might use google docs or various messaging apps to chat with their friends, or even with strangers. These platforms can potentially become a platform for cyberbullying. According to statistics compiled by, about 20% of students ages 12-18 reported they had experienced bullying at school, and of those, 15% said they were bullied online or by text. Having easy access to school devices creates more opportunities for cyberbullying to occur.

How to prevent online distractions in a 1:1 classroom

  • Use internet filters and classroom management software. Filters will help to block websites that are inappropriate, harmful, or that often make students get off task. It is helpful to find classroom management software that allows teachers to see both the internet tabs on students’ devices as well as the whole screen. Being able to monitor students’ activities in real time helps teachers keep students on track and also allows them to immediately address any problems.

  • Be clear with students about what is considered appropriate and inappropriate use of their school devices. It is helpful to have this conversation with both the students and the parents. Some schools have students and parents sign a contract acknowledging they understand the rules, and the ramifications if the rules aren’t followed.

  • Teach digital citizenship. In addition to explaining the rules about appropriate use of devices, it’s also important to have that broader conversation with students about what it means to be a good digital citizen – for example, how to stay safe online, the dangers of online identity theft, sexting, and exploitation, what to do if they see a student being cyberbullied, and how to avoid sites that might contain viruses or contain inappropriate content.

Keeping these issues top-of-mind is a good way to promote positive and appropriate device-use.

About the Author

>Amy Roberts is PR and Community Manager for Impero Software, a leading provider of online student safety and classroom and network management software.