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Getting it right together: Be in Touch offers a digital parenting guide

| November 9, 2020 | 0 Comments

BY JOSH RAMSEY

It is, in my opinion, clearer than ever that the role of schools and teachers is even more essential than we ever knew before this nationwide lockdown.

Parents now have some small insight into the challenges that teachers face every day in educating children, and children are realising themselves how dependent they are on school for their social connections.

Creating learning opportunities for children has not been as simple as delivering classes with video cameras and online worksheets. Teachers play an essential role in maintaining normalcy in an abnormal time for children. They are a constant touchpoint for their students in this new isolated world. Teachers have had to hone their ability to pick up on the emotional states of their students from the small amount of information they can glean from the video screen.

I am a co-founder of Be in Touch (BIT). Our organisation comprises a group of parents with expertise in the fields of psychology, law, and marketing. We were brought together by our passion for managing how our kids experience and engage with the digital world.

Working with teachers and parents

In our work with parents, we have found that the main challenges they are currently facing right now include:

• a marked increase in the time their children spend ‘onscreen’ and, therefore, the challenges to control what their
children are doing with their devices

• managing their professional lives as they work from home with constant interruptions – and, in response to these two challenges

• how they can set appropriate disciplinary boundaries for their children and follow through with consequences.

This is a great opportunity for teachers and parents to improve how they relate to one another, and to understand the roles and responsibilities each party has with regard to the educating and raising of children.

Helping parents to be more consistent, conscious and caring invites them to be hands-on about the digital environment within which their children are growing up. Now, more than ever, the need for digital discipline and the ability to make healthy digital choices is crucial.

How do teachers help parents to understand their digital parenting role?

Parents need to know that although teachers can, to a certain degree, monitor their children whilst they are learning remotely, it is impossible for teachers to limit students’ access to digital devices. The lockdown environment has highlighted the need for even greater digital discipline in our homes. Therefore, BIT has created a simple and practical approach to digital parenting. We would like to share the following tips:

  1. Be mindful of screen time If parents are unaware of how much time they are spending on screens themselves, they will have more of a challenge in recognising that they need to do something about this for their children. Invite the parents at your school to monitor their own screen time use using Digital Wellbeing (Android) or Screentime (IOS), so that they can reflect on their own daily screen time. If their children have devices of their own, ask them to encourage their children to do the same.
  2. Create a digital family alliance Parents need to create digital limits for their families, and essential to this conversation is explaining what the consequences are for breaking the limits. As a school, you can help parents understand that this is an ongoing conversation that the family will need to revisit.
  3. Model good digital habits Asking parents to explain to their children what they are doing when they work on their own devices will clarify the assumptions children may have that their parents are not mindlessly lost in the device but are, in fact, completing a task. This is the start of an understanding of the difference between fun and functional. Not using their devices in agreed no-go zones of the house, and charging devices in a central point at night, outside of their own bedroom, helps parents to signal that as a family you are in it together and are supporting one another to overcome digital distraction.
  4. Install parental controls Home networks and devices need to have parental control solutions in place to limit accidental or even intentional access to inappropriate content and unsupervised interactions with strangers.
  5. Check age restrictions Parents should give thought to and use their own family values as the primary point of guidance. We recommend www.commmonsensemedia.org as an invaluable resource for reviews on apps, movies and games.
  6. Apply location and privacy settings Tech companies are increasingly being forced to open their products to parental control limitations. As such, most services that can be used by under-18s will include ‘restricted’, ‘limited’ or ‘private’ functionality options. Have your parents place the onus on their children to find out how to maximise their safety while using the particular service they want access to, to assist them on their critical thinking journey.
  7. Know passwords and check devices Parents should explain that any device their children uses is not owned by them, but is simply being loaned to them by the parents – and, as such, it comes with certain limits and conditions. When children understand that the communications on their devices can be checked by their parents, it also gives them a ‘shield’ that they can use to get themselves out of situations online with which they are uncomfortable.
  8. Befriend your kids online Parents should link social accounts with their children and use the digital platforms which they as a family have decided are ok (with the increased privacy and location settings), so that they can communicate there. Parents should start building an ongoing conversation with their child about their ‘digital day’.
  9. Don’t drive the children underground As educators and parents, we should acknowledge that children must learn how to build and maintain digital relationships. This ‘new reality’ is not going anywhere, and placing strict limits on children without explaining why those limits are in place, will most likely drive their behaviour underground. This creates difficulties for the child when they need to ask for help when something bad happens while they are ‘breaking the rules’.

Get GoBubble

For this reason, BIT is excited to be part of the South African launch of a safer, kinder and healthier social media platform that is free for schools. This platform is called GoBubble, and in essence it is ‘social media with training wheels’ for under-13s. It gamifies and incentivises kindness and provides a dedicated space for social connection outside formal academic online channels. It provides a ‘virtual playground’ for break-time or after school, where kids can text, share and video-call their friends from a laptop, tablet or phone – and all content is moderated. Unlike the approach of other social media platforms, for which under-13s are not eligible, on GoBubble they are rewarded for the likes they give, not those they get. There are lots of different activities, posted daily, to keep them busy and socially connected during and after lockdown.

To learn more and to sign your school up for this great social media alternative, head to www.gobubble.school and sign up for free.

Let’s face it

Through this lockdown and the remote learning environment it has forced upon schools and families, one thing is more evident than ever: education is changing, and with this change comes a need to revisit roles and responsibilities. It is essential that parents own their digital parenting responsibilities, so that teachers can be freed up to fill the essential role of educator!

Category: Spring 2020

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