Mom says teenager accessed adult content on learning app

NEW BERLIN – One weekend evening, Megan Bersch’s 13-year-old daughter was on her school’s Chromebook. Bersch, who says she regularly monitors her child’s online activity, was unprepared for what she was about to see.

“When I grabbed the Chromebook and looked at the screen that’s when I found out she was in those Padlets, you know the chat rooms talking to other people “said Bersch.

Bersch says that inside these discussion boards on a learning app called Padlet, she has seen articles on drugs, self-harm and suicide and says some have posted nude photos of them- same.

“I’m sitting here like I’m panicking, I’m like I’m in possession of child pornography right now, like you know it’s a big thing for me,” she told Kristin Byrne of the I-Team.

“I am holding a school apparatus full of child pornography, what should I do with it?” ” she said.

Bersch reported it to his daughter’s school in New Berlin.

“They said they were responsible for the safety of the children on the technology issued by the district during school hours and outside of school hours, it is our responsibility,” Bersch said.

“I didn’t know they existed, how can I put parental controls on the account that I never consented to my daughter having,” she said.

Bersch says the school put her in touch with a school resources officer who filed an incident report.

The I-Team contacted the New Berlin School District. The superintendent sent us the statement below:

“The New Berlin School District takes the internet safety of our students seriously. We regularly review, update and implement safeguards to keep students safe online, and internet safety and digital citizenship are taught throughout the district. ”That said, it is extremely unfortunate and disappointing that students can access inappropriate content through what are supposed to be educational tools and applications.

We often remind families of our efforts and the role they can play, and parents are required to acknowledge that they have read and agreed to the District’s Appropriate Use of Technology Policy, which in part “emphasizes the importance responsible use and supervision of parents and staff. in controlling the use of technology.

We have put in place protections and guarantees when students use any of our devices inside or outside our schools; When students bring the device home, we also provide parents with additional options for managing content.

As we become aware of new, unexpected, or unforeseen issues, we take action to address concerns and implement necessary changes. We will continue to investigate what more we as a District can do to improve our internet safety practices and educate parents about the apps we use and how they can help us support our efforts. “

Titania Jordan started a business called Bark. It is a service that monitors children’s online activity.

“This is unfortunately not an isolated incident. You know that at Bark Technologies, according to our annual data for 2020, over 70% of children will encounter sexual content. Parent, especially if they are not ready,” said Jordan.

Jordan believes it is a shared responsibility for schools and parents to protect children from this type of exposure and she believes these online platforms should not be getting passes.

“Holding these platforms accountable. The fact that this media could even be uploaded to their server is another issue,” Jordan said.

The I-Team contacted Padlet. CEO Nitesh Goel made the statement below:

“Padlet is a platform for personal expression and creative collaboration. We do not allow content that is sexually explicit or encourages self-harm.

The use of our app has quintupled during the pandemic and with it came cases of people using our platform for purposes for which it was not intended. It has been a daunting task for our small team to overcome all the challenges that this has brought, but we have worked hard over the past couple of months to try and prevent the uploading of objectionable content to our platform.

This month we launched a system that allows us to detect and remove sexually explicit content within seconds of uploading it to Padlet. We are currently actively working on a self-injury detection system. We hope it will be ready by the end of the month.

I’m sorry we couldn’t get a head start on this issue, but I promise we won’t be too late. We are committed to making Padlet a safe place of creativity and collaboration for all of our members. “

“Is Padlet the real danger or is it just one of the many applications where this content is accessible to children?” I-Team’s Kristin Byrne asked Jordan.

“Yes, Padlet is not the main culprit. It’s the unhindered access to technology that children have that is not being watched and really unaware,” Jordan said.

Jordan says the tough conversations with our kids about online dangers need to happen much sooner.

“If you think you need to tell your kid about porn at 11, think again, try new and it’s hard. It’s not easy,” Jordan continued.

Bersch no longer allows her daughter to use the Padlet app and most of the time she doesn’t send her to school with her Chromebook either. She no longer wants to find her child in a chat room with strangers.

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