I am a technology coordinator in a very tech-rich school- meaning technology is available and integrated regularly in the classrooms. In 5th-10th grades, students are required to "bring your own device," there are carts of iPads for grades preK-4th grades to check out, and a limited amount of Chromebooks are also available for use through teacher/student checkout for all grade levels as well. We use technology as a tool at our school to enhance the student learning experience as well as streamline the teacher's workday. Due to the technology culture at our school, I sometimes have parents ask me questions about student usage issues. This blog post is to give some ideas on how parents can help support their student's technology needs.
- Protect your student's device. You know your child's personality better than anyone, will they treat their device in an appropriate manner or will they throw it into their backpack? If you are in a BYOT school, buy not only the device that you think is the best fit for your child but buy a device that meets their maturity level in terms of "care of device." If your child tends to still be clumsy and careless with technology, wrap that tablet in plastic! There are many good cases that go above and beyond the call of duty in keeping your investment safe. I broke down and spent a bit more money to put my iPhone 6S in an Otterbox case when I bought it lately. The cost of a case beats the cost of a new screen any day of the week. If your student wants a laptop, consider the possibility that it is a bit more fragile in terms of care but there are actually cases for those as well, they just aren't quite as sturdy for the most part.
- Protect your student's heart. Curiosity is a part of how we were created, with that comes some positives and negatives. Set boundaries for your child in regards to technology usage. Each child is different and parenting is different for each child but use parental controls on devices and wireless routers. Look at companies like My Torch, Curbi, Covenant Eyes or Mobicip for example. As always, the best form of parental control is sitting next to your student when they are using technology and always having them use technology in open areas when at home.
- Protect your student's priorities. It's very easy to allow a device to become an extension of who we are. Set limits on technology usage for your students. This year as our fifth grade went 1:1 for the first time, I talked digital citizenship with our students regarding balancing time and I "showed" them through a little test the downside to constantly switch tasking. I read three books to them: Doug Unplugged by Dan Yaccarino, When Charlie McButton Lost Power by Suzanne Collins/Mike Lester, Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd. Look for opportunities to seek ways to model balanced technology use yourself. One of my first statements when talking about balancing with elementary students is "are your parents ever doing something on their smartphone while you are trying to talk to them and you can't get their attention?" 97% of the time I get a resounding "YES" from the majority of the students and multiple students want to share examples.
- Protect the teacher's need to have a class with devices ready to go. In a culture where technology is expected, if a student doesn't come with their device charged, doesn't have the required apps or websites available, it changes how a teacher has to teach that day. Just like you make sure your students have their homework done, their lunches packed, and their coats on a cold day, make sure their devices are ready for the day's activities.
- Protect your student's school day from unneeded distractions. If you have a student that seems to be pulled off task by the device in their hands on a regular basis, perhaps it is time to adjust their device for more school-oriented purposes. If they seem to be iMessaging more than paying attention, finishing a Minecraft project instead of reading, or posting photos on Instagram during the school day- maybe they need to have those options removed (at least for a time) to prove they can use technology responsibly.
- Protect your child from making social media bad choices. We live in an age where things that happen at home can easily affect the school day more than ever before. As a parent, follow your students on social media, pick up their device and look at their camera roll occasionally. Keep your child accountable. Sadly, one bad choice of sending something inappropriate could haunt your child for the rest of their life. As a parent, you have a responsibility to talk with your student about online safety, protecting private information, standing up to cyberbullying, respecting themselves and others, and balancing their time (adapted from Common Sense media poster). Commonsensemedia.org is a great resource for parents and teachers to help navigate the digital world with their students. For the past three years I have been a Certified Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship Educator because I see the value of teaching digital citizenship skills to our students often.
Parents often come to me and want a panacea bulleted list on "How do I parent this aspect of my child's life?" but honestly there is no quick fix, one size fits all answer. Just like many parts of parenting, we learn as we go, outside circumstances change our views, new things cause us to need to adjust, and attitudes carry great weight in how we protect yet grow our children into responsible adults. We are parenting digital citizens to make them future ready for the world beyond. We have responsibilities to help the education system in guiding and directing them into productive citizens.