Behind the Screen: Why Students Must Keep Cameras On

By Jamel Rojas

After the first week of the fall semester, Principal Tonya Williams made a rule that students have to have their cameras on during zoom classes. But ten weeks later, most of them remain off.  

A lot of students didn’t like this rule and were wondering why she made it mandatory to have cameras on. During a press conference with The Pirates’ Hook, Williams said wants teachers to see the student’s faces, and having their cameras on helps the teachers see who is engaged and who is not.  

Many Riverside teachers agree. They also believe it’s hard to develop rapport with students if they can’t see their faces.

“The single most important thing for success in a classroom is for a student and a teacher to build a relationship,” said social studies teacher Robert Paton, “and it’s hard to do that when the video camera is off.”

Another reason Williams made it mandatory to have cameras on is because of Zoom boomers –  people who try to get in another teacher’s classroom, often under a fake name, and disrupt the class.  

“Obviously, this causes a disruption to the learning environment,” Williams said in her Aug. 23 phone message to Riverside families. “In order to combat this, students will be required to have their cameras on when they enter the Zoom session.”

Paton said there were 10 different attempts in his class in which a zoom bomber tried to get in his classroom in one week, but none were able to get in.

Riverside has implemented new sign-in procedures to reduce the number of Zoom bombers, but most students’ cameras remain off. 

For many, it’s because of internet issues. Students found that their audio lags too much when the camera is on, and it’s easier to keep up with class when it’s off. Others simply aren’t comfortable having their camera on. Many Riverside students are attending virtual classes from shared spaces in their home. They have parents and guardians working from home and siblings attending their own classes on zoom alongside them. 

Williams acknowledged these circumstances and doesn’t want online classes to feel like an invasion of students’ privacy. 

“If there is a unique situation, then the student and/or parent should directly email the teacher,” she said in her phone message. “Other than that, cameras should remain on for the duration of the class period.” 

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