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Leah Plunkett

  • Collage of people working from home

    Going remote

    March 3, 2021

    Ten Harvard Law School faculty share a behind-the-scenes look at their Zoom studios and the innovative approaches they employed to connect with students.

  • Molly Brady wearing a bright red jacket sits in front of a computer and teaches her class in Zoom

    2020 in pictures

    January 5, 2021

    A look back at the year at HLS.

  • On the Bookshelf: HLS Library Book Talks, Spring 2018 2

    On the bookshelf

    December 15, 2020

    In the unusual year of 2020, Harvard Law authors continued to do what they always have: Write.

  • Data Privacy in the Age of Online Learning

    December 9, 2020

    Schools are relying heavily on technology—from videoconferencing programs to digital-teaching tools and temperature-taking apps—to educate children safely in the age of Covid. But this rapid deployment of new technology means schools are collecting a lot more personal data on students. And that is raising some troubling questions about who has access to the data, how it is being used and whether it is being kept safe. Infrastructure for protecting students’ personal data wasn’t that sound to begin with, says Leah Plunkett, a Meyer Research Lecturer at Harvard Law School, who likens the current situation to building something “using duct tape on top of Legos.” The federal law governing student privacy dates back to 1974, and while some states have more stringent laws, sufficient funding to implement those statutes is often lacking, she says. And many public schools lack the technical expertise or personnel to deal with student-data privacy, she adds. Technology companies often want to keep their data analytics and algorithms proprietary, which can make it difficult for outsiders to see what information is being collected, how it is being used and if it is ever deleted. Schools, meanwhile, increasingly have become targets of cyberattacks.

  • Connected Parent Zoom panel

    ‘The Connected Parent’ offers guidance, insight into digital parenting

    November 16, 2020

    “The Connected Parent,” a new book by John Palfrey ’01 and Urs Gasser LL.M. ’03  is a practical guide for addressing concerns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and navigating an increasingly digital world.

  • What’s At Stake When You Share Photos Of Your Kids Online

    October 22, 2020

    If you’re a parent, especially to school-aged kids, chances are this has been one of the most trying years of your life. With all of us doing just about everything from home these days, the lines can get blurry and the days can be daunting. Whether you’re barely hanging on as your kid is having a meltdown or having a great family afternoon out at the park, if you’re anything like us, social media has likely become a place to share even more of the highs and lows you’re experiencing day to day. And if you’re someone who has kids, chances are that what you’re sharing online likely involves your children from time to time. Sharing updates about your kids on social media may seem harmless, but Detroit Today speaks with an expert who says there are real consequences to this aspect of parenting in the digital age. Leah Plunkett is a faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. The Ann Arbor native is also the author of the book, “Sharenthood: Why We Should Think Before We Talk about Our Kids Online.”Plunkett’s book came out last year, but with all of us spending more time than ever in front of our screens, it feels especially timely to talk with her at this moment. In simple terms, Plunkett says “sharenting” is all the ways that parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, teachers, coaches and other trusted adults share private information about kids digitally. She says the most cited example of sharenting is when parents share on social media. As far as drawing the lines around what’s safe to share about your kids online, Plunkett says ”there are a couple of very bright lines. Never ever share anything with exact precision [about] where your child is at an exact moment or your child’s full identifying information.” She also says to not share any photos of a child in any state of undress, such as a day at the beach or in the bath, even if it seem innocuous. ”Outside of those bright lines,” says Plunkett, “it gets a little harder and here is where I would say we all need to be having this discussion within our homes and schools and try to come up with a value-based plan.”

  • Illustration of an open laptop with images of four people, on a desk with a lamp, plant, cup of coffee. Laptop is connected to a cloud and work related images.

    COVID adaptation

    August 26, 2020

    As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the globe, affecting every aspect of human society, Harvard Law School finds itself at a pivotal moment in legal education. From the crisis, and the challenges and opportunities of remote learning, it is wresting pedagogical innovations that are transforming what it means to get a legal education.

  • Digital Bingeing: Time On Screens During COVID-19

    May 26, 2020

    Never before did parents think they’d be encouraging more screen time. But now, in the midst of a pandemic and nation-wide social distancing, we’re telling our kids to get online. That is, when they don't have to share the Wifi with the adults in the house...With school lessons online on Zoom, and social media like TikTok all the rage, what's the impact of double the screen use? And what are the privacy implications of virtually sharing so much of our personal lives? Guests: Dr. Delaney Ruston - primary care physician based in Seattle, documentary filmmaker, and creator of award-winning film "Screenagers" and "Screenagers NEXT CHAPTER." Leah Plunkett - associate dean and associate professor at University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law, faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, and author of “Sharenthood.”

  • Do’s and Don’ts of sharing content involving your kids

    April 30, 2020

    A lot of parents who are now stuck at home with their children are turning to social media to share what life is now like. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, some parents would share every moment of their kids actions on Instagram or YouTube. Some parents even create Instagram pages for their children from birth. When it comes to children’s privacy online, the law is spotty. Leah Plunkett works with the interdisciplinary Youth and Media team at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet Society at Harvey University. She also is the author of the book, “Sharenthood”. “For parents that are worried about violating the law, I would say unless you’re doing something that would be criminal, you can share,” Plunkett said. “You are unlikely to violate a law with ‘sharenting’ but there’s a lot of room for us as parents as well as grandparents and coaches to do better than the law requires of us and make values-based choices around protecting privacy.” Plunkett says there are some things for parents to think about while being stuck at home. She notes it’s important to find ways to connect and vent but to make sure it’s not on social media. “If it’s online, even if they are three now, they’ll find it by the time they’re a teen,” She said. “Think about how they’ll feel with that kind of window into exactly how you were feeling when they whined for Disney plus for the 10th time.”

  • We’ve made new rules to protect our families. We must protect kids’ privacy too.

    April 23, 2020

    An article by Leah PlunkettThe terms and conditions of our lives have changed beyond recognition in recent weeks. It's time the terms and conditions provided by digital technology companies be rewritten to match. Consider the deal we've made with most tech companies: we give up our private information and they give us free or low-cost digital services in exchange for using this data however they want. On any given day, this deal is dishonorable. During the Covid-19 pandemic, when children and their parents are relying on the internet more than ever, it's immoral. Data that is collected from and about our children, used by tech companies, and shared with third parties can have a serious impact on their future. Tech companies should safeguard our children's privacy by stopping these invasive practices. From school to sports to social activities and so much more, we are scrambling to get our kids online in order to adapt to our new reality. We are logging in to countless platforms to bring the world into our homes. In doing so, we're also giving out our children's personal information at an ever-increasing rate.