Learning to be Watched. Surveillance Culture at School

published 9 September 2016 updated 9 September 2016

In the United States, schools now routinely direct students online to do their schoolwork; and they collect student data using education and recordkeeping software that is useful to marketers as well—creating a threat to students’ privacy. Schools’ embrace of digital technology augments and amplifies traditional types of education-related marketing, which include: (1) appropriation of space on school property, (2) exclusive agreements, (3) sponsored programs and activities,(4) incentive programs, (5) sponsorship of supplementary educational materials, and (6) fundraising. These marketing efforts, conducted with the implicit blessing of administrators, teachers, and parents, combine to normalize for children the notion that corporations have a legitimate role in their education and in their lives more generally. In addition to threatening children’s right to privacy, these practices raise serious concerns about their effect on children’s physical and psychological well-being and about their impact on the integrity of the education children receive. By engaging in these practices, schools abet the socialization of students as consumers who take for granted that others have a right to keep their behavior under constant surveillance for marketing purposes—even at the cost of their own well-being.This report considers how schools facilitate the work of digital marketers and examines the effects of their relentless tracking of and marketing to children.

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