Can a Teacher Force You to Turn On Your Camera on Zoom?

Screenshot of the Mute and Stop Video buttons on Zoom
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If you don’t want to turn on your camera during Zoom classes, you may be asking, “Can a teacher force you to turn on your camera on Zoom?” 

Force is a tricky word. Can the teacher actually reach through the computer and physically make you turn on your camera? Obviously not. They also can’t turn on your camera themselvesOpens in a new tab.


Teachers can require students to have their cameras on in order to be counted in attendance, receive class participation points, or get a grade for a group discussion or presentation. They can also require that students have their cameras on before they can take a test. 

If a student chooses not to turn on their camera, they will have to accept the consequences of that.

Let’s review why teachers may require you to have your camera on, some reasons why you should be allowed to have your camera off, and your options.

Want to look your best on Zoom? Good webcam lightingOpens in a new tab. and a laptop standOpens in a new tab. to keep your camera at eye level will help you look great!

Can I turn off my camera on Zoom?

Everyone is able to turn off their camera on Zoom. You simply click the “Stop video” button on the left-hand corner: 

Zoom with arrow to stop video button

However, as we are discussing, it may be against your teacher’s rules for you to turn off your camera. 

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Why would a teacher force students to turn on their cameras on Zoom? 

Teachers may require students to turn on their cameras so they can see you, just as you would be required to attend in-person classes.

It makes it clear that you are attending class 

When the video is off, people often think that the person isn’t paying attention or is off doing something else. This is one reason why it is considered rude to leave your camera off during Zoom callsOpens in a new tab..

If you aren’t talking either, you could have left the room for all the teacher knows.

That is why the biggest reason teachers require a camera to be on is to prove that it is you attending and you are at least somewhat paying attention, not sleeping or gone. 

It is hard for teachers to teach to black boxes

Teaching without any nonverbal cues from the students can be difficult and not fun. 

Teachers need to be able to see the students to gauge their responses or check to see if students are following along and understanding the material. 

Better interaction and conversation 

A lack of interaction is one reason why Zoom classes can be boringOpens in a new tab.

If the class is not a complete lecture, students are expected to participate. Group discussions go much easier when people can see each other, recognize their non-verbal cues, and build on each other’s engagement.

Some teachers may also expect students to use Zoom’s reactions to show feedback.

To meet people and place a face to the name 

Your teacher may simply want to meet you and place a face to the name. 

It is also nice to be able to identify other students since building connections in the class can make the class more interesting. 


Another reason that teachers may force students to turn on their camera is for security. 

They need to know that you really are who you say you are and not someone “Zoom bombingOpens in a new tab..”

How can a teacher force you to turn on your camera on Zoom? 

Fountain pen on policy

Each school or college decides its policy, but if they decide that you are required to have your camera on, that can be tied to your grade in several ways. 

Your teachers can also set standards for your background (generally just that nothing inappropriate is behind you or that you don’t keep changing your background image). A dress code can also still be expected, just like in an in-person classroom.

Marked as absent 

If your teacher is taking attendance and cannot see you (or cannot see you throughout the whole lesson), your teacher may mark this as an unexcused absence. 

If you continue to be marked absent and are still young enough that your state requires you to attend school (until 14-18 years old depending on the state), you can be marked as a truant.

Missed participation points 

If you get class participation points, your teacher may withhold some or all points if you do not leave your camera on. 

For college classes, you may have a group discussion grade where you have to have video calls. You are required to have your camera on and record the call as proof. If you fail to do so, you receive a zero for the group discussion grade.

Not accept presentation 

If you have to give a presentation, you may be required to have your camera on, or else you cannot do your presentation. This would result in a zero for that grade. 

Not allow students to take a test

Testing is normally when online classes are the strictest about having your camera on. 

If your exam requires some form of online proctoring, you will not be allowed to take the test without your camera on. If you turn it off in the middle, you can be accused of cheating and face the consequences (a zero on your test and disciplinary action).

Can a teacher force you to unmute on Zoom?

In the same way that a teacher can require students to have their cameras on in order to be marked present and receive their points, they can require participation and discussion. 

Some teachers may allow students to participate through the chat, but many will require you to speak.

Even teachers that do not require you to have your camera on will often require you to unmute at different points throughout the class to participate (talk).

Can a teacher legally force you to turn on your camera on Zoom? 

In general, the policy regarding whether teachers can require a student to have their camera on during Zoom is up to each school, school board, and school district. Many allow teachers to require students to have their cameras on during Zoom calls.

You could look into federal or state laws and see if you can make a case that it is an invasion of privacy. There are also stricter laws regarding recording people, so you can check into local laws if your teacher records the classes.

But overall, I am surprised how often this question is asked, considering this doesn’t appear to be a legal issue. I mean, how many of you are going to sue your school?

Do teachers force students to turn on their cameras on Zoom?

Since it is up to each school to decide its policy, there is a wide range. 

Some teachers: 

  • ask students to turn on their cameras at the beginning of class to say hello 
  • require students to leave their cameras on 
  • expect students to turn it on when they are giving instructions or having a group discussion so they can see their responses but allow them to turn it off for the lecture
  • ask students to keep their cameras off to preserve limited bandwidth or help with speed issues

You will need to check your teacher’s or school’s policy.

Legitimate reasons students should be allowed to leave their cameras off

If you are going to challenge your teacher’s policy of requiring you to turn on your camera on Zoom, you should make sure that you have a legitimate reason to keep your camera off, not just “I want to.”

Bad internet connection 

Video Conference Slow Internet Connection. Poor Signal Problem

If students have a bad internet connection and the video is freezing or buffering, they should be allowed to turn their camera off so that they can see the class and their audio can work better. 

Limited data 

Video calls require a lot of data, especially with the camera on. If the student has limited data, it would be highly beneficial to them to keep their camera off. 

Invasion of privacy 

Students that have problems at home may not feel comfortable with people seeing their living arrangements. 

Some people can only have the privacy to do school in unusual spaces in their home, such as a closet or laundry room. They may have family members around or are sharing a workspace. 

Other people are homeless or don’t have internet, so they have to take their classes in a public space or even sit in their cars.

Other students seeing these conditions could lead to bullying. 

There are also people that are being stalked or have fled domestic violence, and they don’t want to take the security risk of being on camera. 

Note: If you are concerned about privacy but are required to have your camera on, you can try bad lighting or virtual background.

Religious objections

Some people may have religious objections to being seen in their homes (such as without the head covering) or to being recorded. 

Talk to your teacher to resolve any issues or concerns

If you have any of the above legitimate reasons for wanting to leave your camera off, just talk to or email your teacher. 

Explain your reasons for wanting to not be on video and see if you can be allowed an exception. 

Teachers can be very understanding when you have an issue but take proactive steps to address the problem and work to still succeed in their class!

If you are trying to turn your camera on but are having problems, check our post: Why Can’t I See Myself in My Zoom Meeting?: 8 Fixes!Opens in a new tab.

My favorite products for Zoom meetings and classes 

Thank you for reading this article—I hope you found it helpful! Here are some of the best products I have found to help make Zoom meetings and classes go smoothly. 

Noise-canceling headphones: All students and anyone attending a lot of Zoom meetings need to invest in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones. I have used Bose earphonesOpens in a new tab. for over a decade, and I love them! I practically live in my earphones and have tried many different brands. Bose is by far the best brand at actually blocking out noise. 

Laptop stand: One of the best ways to look good on video calls is to have the camera at eye level. A laptop standOpens in a new tab. is an easy and affordable way to do this. 

Webcam: If you have a good laptopOpens in a new tab. with a functioning webcam, then you don’t need to buy an additional webcam, but if your laptop webcam is poor quality, you may need to buy a webcamOpens in a new tab..

Webcam lighting: Another way to look good on video calls is to have good lighting. A great way to achieve this is with lighting that attaches to your computerOpens in a new tab.. This will also ensure that you can be seen no matter where you attend are when you attend the Zoom meeting.

To see all of my most up-to-date recommendations for tools and products for students, check out this resourceOpens in a new tab. that I made for you!

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