Should I let my child's school have access to my kid's personal laptop?
My kid is starting 6th grade and the school requires him to get a laptop and bring it to school. Now the school IT department wants to install some software on the laptop and is asking for administrative access. They want to install Office, Outlook, an AV and some site certificates.
I feel that on principle this is not right, as it's not the school's device, so school staff shouldn't have access. Additionally, I don't have any sense of how good the school's security practices are. What if they inadvertently install malware? However, if I refuse then I risk being "that parent" and I'm setting myself up for a few years of headaches as any time the school wants to add new software, I'll have to do it myself.
What would you do?
Update Wow, this certainly blew up! Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting.
We ended up letting the school have access, for a couple reasons:
The clock was ticking and our child was the only one whose laptop wasn't set up, so he wasn't able to fully participate in lessons and was missing out on emails sent to the students.
I'm traveling and am not at home, so remotely installing the software myself would add another layer of complexity and require someone at home to prep the laptop for remote admin, while adding more delay to the device being ready.
It came down to what's best for the child and at the moment it seemed to us parents that it was letting the school have its way. I can check the device myself later and if there is anything that compromises the device's security or the child's privacy, then I have a better argument against the school's approach. In the meantime I'm letting them know that they could have communicated more about their plans and given us time to have a conversation about it rather than springing it on us at the last minute (though from their point-of-view this worked out just fine).
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Comments have been removed, did any of them ask or answer important questions, like 1. What country 2. Private or public school?
What school and what country? I find it hard to believe that a USA public school, as an example, would be allowed to required each student to provide such expensive gear. What other expensive items do schools in your area routinely require of students?
OT, but my concern would also be that they seem to require a specific OS ..
Point of clarification: Is this computer going to be continued to be owned by your child until they grow out of it or decide they want a new one? I've had my computer since I was in high school. Had something been put on my computer there is nothing stopping them from spying on me *through college* and even now as a graduated person in the workforce. I am curious if the same thing is likely to occur with your child's laptop.
Needing to install things is kind of the point of needing the laptop, so it makes perfect sense that they want to install Office, AV, and certificates. There are no surprises there. To do that, they need admin access, but I would want to revoke that access once they were done.
I would want to know the list of everything they want to install, and if they have central control over the AV (and if they do, why they want that).
If your worry is that they might install malware, then download a Live CD of an anti-malware program and run it on the laptop after they are done.
If the laptop is only used for school work, then there is really no harm here. If your child will be using it for other things, then there might be some privacy conflicts.
The onslaught of comments and the split in votes highlights a difference in understanding of the operating model here. This is not a situation where the school wants sudden control of a personal device. This is a situation where the school is asking the parent to purchase a device for the school to control and this answer is meant to be applied in this model. The school needs to be able to control the device as a part of due care (and remember that the child in this case is a minor; 12 or 13). In terms of protecting the child's privacy, my advice to make sure that the device is only used for school work holds.
The fact that the parent can retain admin control is a great thing for the protection of the child, something that would not be possible if the school owned the device. The parent can inventory, patch, and uninstall.
This operating model means that the school can ensure consistency of software, which would be required for teaching consistency, it lowers the cost to the school (yes, it increases direct costs to the parents, but does offer cost efficient options) and it offers due care controls for the protection of the child. You just have to shift your mindset that just because you bought the device does not mean that you should have 100% control of the device.
And again, with the new onslaught of comments, I say: consider the idea of a "burner" device. You own it, but it is meant to be, at least in part, out of your control and properly classified for certain activities.
If the operating model was that the school wanted sudden control of a personal device, my answer would be very different (more like AviD's).