CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – Almost one year into remote learning, a single mom made a shocking discovery on her child’s school-issued computer. Now, she’s calling for tighter restrictions on the technology.
The mother, who wants to remain anonymous, told FOX 46 that her 12-year-old autistic daughter was viewing inappropriate images on her CMS Chromebook.
A few weeks ago, a teacher tipped off the mom, telling her that her daughter was looking at “scantily clad” images during virtual class.
That night, the girl’s mother went through the device, searching for what was being viewed and logged into. She says she found searches for “sex and sexy” as well as a profile on the website Quora.
She believes her daughter created a fake profile on Quora based on finding the profile pictures saved on the computer. The pictures had been downloaded from the internet.
But the most horrific of finds, her mother says, was when she saw grown men sending her little girl naked pictures of themselves.
“[I’m] back and forth, crying one minute in a rage, the next wondering how this could have happened,” she said.
The girl’s mom says due to her autism, her daughter has lived a “sheltered” life. Before the pandemic, her children didn’t have any of their own devices and only had internet access at school.
“In some ways she’s very high functioning,” her mother said. But she says socially and emotionally, her daughter is “on the lower end of the scale,” specifically in the range of an eight to 10-year-old.
“[She’s] seen a lot of things she shouldn’t be able to see at this point; she shouldn’t be able to know at this point,” her mom said. “How could they give out these devices that have little to no filters on them or locks?”
I.T. security specialist, Tom Blanchard with Sterling Technology in Charlotte, says it can be difficult to block sites.
“That’s a real challenge on like a Quora or other message board site like a Reddit that can be totally helpful and appropriate in an educational setting, but what you’re seeing bad guys do is use these sites and put links to names that aren’t associated with these bad things.”
She feels the school was rushed to get the devices distributed and didn’t set up proper security.
“There’s no silver bullet that’s going to perfectly protect your children. It doesn’t exist. That’s why you need a combination of education and a tool that helps protect them as best as it can,” Blanchard said.
Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools provided a statement to FOX 46, saying:
“Approximately 125,000 CMS devices are at home with students and all of those devices are protected by the state’s content filtration software, Zscaler, through the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. This technology is not completely foolproof and with thousands of new websites and immeasurable amounts of new content loaded every day, occasionally some of this will slip through.
As for the site mentioned, Quora, our team did some creative searching and found linked content that is clearly inappropriate and the site was manually blacklisted immediately.”
The child’s mom still has the computer and says that her daughter has not been attending class. She feels she needs the assistance of a child psychologist to talk to her daughter about how she got on those sites and perhaps, more importantly, why.