The much-quoted Prensky phrase 'digital native' is used to describe someone born in the digital and technological age. These are the millennials sitting in my classroom and flopping about on sofas across the land during half term attached to Mine Craft, YouTube, Snap Chat and OoVoo. Us old folk, born before the times of Google are described by Prensky as 'digital immigrants,' as adopters of technology, which we have seen, evolve in our life times.
Both of these phrases have been hotly discussed, contested and somewhat debunked in educational circles - but the divide for me between the generations and how we use technology is very real, no more so than when parents and teachers need to role model the effective and safe use of technology. As more and more schools are using 1:1 devices, such as smart phones or tablets, as part of lessons, it cannot be just assumed that parents will know how to support their children in managing a healthy relationship with technology. Here are five ways that you as a parents can help to set positive expectations about the use of technology.
1. Keep the charger in a family room. Children are a bubbling mix of hormones and emotions at the best of times. If you add sleep deprivation into the mix as they have been iMessaging their friends at 2am, it is not going to end well. Recent studies on looking at screens before bed have also shown that this can not only affect sleep but actually cause sleep disorders. Children need decent sleep, and no devices in bedrooms will go a long way towards helping this happen.
2. Set screen time limits. You can enforce these by adding a timer that turns the device off after a certain amount of time. Even better for me is to talk to your child about why spending excessive amounts of time of a device isn't healthy, and work together to reach an agreed amount of time that can be spent on them a day. Many children will bemoan that they need the tablet to do homework. Parents, trust me, there isn't a teacher in the land who would mind work produced on paper rather than in an app as the focus should be on the learning that your child is doing, not the medium it is produced/presented in.
3. Be eSafety savvy. Your child has probably had eSafety PSHE lessons from a young age. There is a wealth of information for parents at Child Net, and schools should also have advice on their websites along with Acceptable Usage Policies. Many parents activate the parental controls on their child's device, not realising that Wi-Fi enabled machines can be tethered to 3G devices and still reach unfiltered internet access. Trust me, children will work out ways round the majority of filters. The best thing you can do as a parent in ensure that your child understands what is appropriate, and what to do if they feel unsafe online.
4. In app purchases are the devil's work. Many games are free to download, but have extensive in app purchases that can quickly mount up. Give careful consideration as to whether your child needs/is responsible enough to have the password to enable them to make purchases through the device, or if using Apple devices, use Family Sharing so at least you will get an email alert saying that money is being spent.
5- Remember - You are the parent. Taking devices away, enforcing rules about their use and policing the sites your children look at will not always make you popular. Well, this parenting malarkey can be a tough gig, but being on the same page as your child's teacher/school about the expectations that they have for its use both inside the classroom and at home will go a long way in supporting the decisions that you make. If you have any concerns then talk to the school so that you can work to find solutions together.
Being the parent of children in the digital age is tricky. Mind, being a parent has always been tricky; it is just that now the frontiers have shifted slightly. Digital parenting is no different to any other type - positive outcomes, just like in the classroom, will be built on mutual relationships of trust.