Millions of children logged on to the first day of school this year to avoid crowded classrooms in the age of a pandemic. But are there other dangers to be aware of at home?

“Being all online means that there’s more spaces that trolls can break into,” said Alicia Vance, director of youth & education privacy at the Future of Policy Forum in Washington D.C. “There’s more opportunities.”

She says since the switch to virtual learning, there have been a lot of cases of ‘zoom bombers,’ people who hack into meetings and present hateful language or other inappropriate content. People have also had trouble connecting in the first place. Vance says it’s because many online tools weren’t designed for learning.

“You saw widespread adoption of tools that weren’t built for education,” Vance said. “That were really built for businesses, casual get togethers, so their emphasis was on ease of access, the ability to click a link when you’re there. But that’s a problem when you now have online classes.”

Since the spring, many online resources have added some safeguards like password protection, or the ability for the host to kick a troll out.

“We want to ensure that kids are being monitored before they use the computer as well,” said Duane Dunston, professor of information and technology at Champlain College.

Dunston suggests that students not share meeting information with anyone.

A group called BARK monitors online interactions. More than 2,000 school districts across the nation use their technology. Their data shows online predators have increased 23% from last year.

“Predators can be anybody and because of that they know where children are, when they’re there and in how to talk to them in a way that engenders trust,” said Titania Jordan, chief parenting officer at BARK.

The app can also be used by parents at home and credits itself in preventing 16 school shootings and detecting more than 60,000 self-harm situations.

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