Sending kids off to school with an internet enabled, often expensive new device in their backpacks, can be of great concern for many parents. They are worried about exposing their child to a globally connected world and online content that is often inappropriate. There are fears about predators, cyberbullying, sexting, obsessive use and time wasting and many of the other pitfalls of the digital landscape. Then there are the physical challenges of keeping the device itself safe. Lost jumpers, drink bottles and lunch boxes that never return home, leave parents feeling anything but confident in the future of that expensive device.
It appears that digital devices however, are going to continue to play a huge role in our children’s education, and indeed their lives. So rather than pine for the days of blackboard and chalk, we need to focus on how we can safely, positively and smartly make this transition.
By asking ourselves the following questions, we have a far greater chance of achieving this and allowing our kids to reap the many benefits to their learning that the technology offers.
Insurance for your digital device
- How is this device insured?
- What damage is it insured for?
- What are the excess costs?
- Is this covered by the school? (some devices are on lease from the school and so insurance forms part of the package)
- Do I need to include it in my house and contents insurance? Is it covered 24/7, when it is not in the home.
- Are there any clauses about certain types of damage?
Protecting your digital device
- Is there a safe place in the schoolbag to transport the device? i.e a section away from potentially leaking drink bottles.
- Does the school have a safe place to store the devices during the day?
- What is the best possible cover and screen protection to handle school bags thrown in and out of cars, on to bedroom floors or concrete bus stops. Spending money now on a decent cover will no doubt save you insurance premiums in the future.
Access to apps and content
- Does this device enable the child to download whatever apps they like? (some schools lease devices and so have full control over what goes on them. Otherwise most students will have their own itunes accounts to download apps themselves).
- Do we as parents need to be the only ones who can access itunes or app stores to monitor which apps are being downloaded?
- Whist the school may have some controls on the wifi, this doesn’t count once the device is on different wifi or on data. Do we therefore need to look at further protections such as Family Zone or other software to ensure we protect against the dangerous and inappropriate content?
- Have we ensured that the settings on google search, youtube, safari etc are filtered to avoid the worst content? (with full knowledge however that these settings are never guaranteed so further protection is a better option)
- Are there some safer search engines they could be using to do their research?
- Does your child understand the things they can and cannot share online? (full name, date of birth, address, phone number)
- Are location settings turned off as necessary?
- Do they know the importance of asking permission before posting photos or videos of friends online? Are they seeing this practise role modelled by their parents? (Getting in to the habit of asking your child’s permission before posting a photo helps remind them of the need to respect others wishes)
- How does the school use the technology to communicate with parents?
- What systems are they using, and how can I use it to to better engage with the teacher and the classroom? (some schools use programs like seesaw where parents can see portfolios and videos of their child learning and get advice on how that can best be supported at home).
Rules and Boundaries
- What rules do we have in place at home? (starting off with rules and boundaries from the beginning is a lot easier than trying to implement later when you realise you have a problem)
- Are there ‘no brainer rules’ for our family that just become part of what happens daily. i.e no devices ever come to the dinner table, no devices used an hour before bed, no recharging of devices in the bedroom. Whatever you think will be an important rule for your family, starting at the beginning is a great way to ensure it becomes the norm.
- Do we have a plan for balancing their time on the devices with their many other activities?
- How good is my understanding of how my child’s device works?
- Am I aware of the pitfalls of owning an internet enabled device and am I also aware of the challenges faced by our children? (they may be tech savvy but there are many elements of a digital world that they still need our help with)
- Am I attending any information nights on cyber safety or digital learning offered by the school or local councils? (If not, should I be getting in touch with The Modern Parent to make this happen)
There will continue to be challenges and setbacks as your child participates with the technology and devices and they will no doubt makes some mistakes along the way. You will however also be amazed and inspired by all the wonderful things your child will achieve with the technology. Keep an open mind, keep up to date and remember to play close attention to monitoring your child and not just their devices, and hopefully the experience will remain a positive one for you and your family.
If you or your school would like my presentation kit on talks and workshops available for students, teachers and parents, you can download here.