I have to say my personal nightmare came true.
While I was addressing parents worldwide to make sure they wouldn’t let their kids into the digital world too soon and unprepared for it, schools made their move. Most schools worldwide have decided to include digital devices in classrooms as part of their regular educational plans and projects.
Children as early as kindergarten are now using devices in their classrooms. Some for research, some for educational apps, and many others without really having a set goal or intended use. All of this is taking parent’s control, decision, and power over their kids’ digital habits away from them, and I’m telling you, even though schools made the choice, they have little to no idea over the impact this will have.
As you know there are a variety of areas in which kids are impacted by the use of digital technology. Their health can be affected by too much exposure to screens, their social growth and interactions are affected, their emotional intelligence, self-awareness, self-esteem, etc.
You’re probably thinking: “Well, if schools are in charge of educating kids, they must know what they’re doing.”
While many of them might have actually assessed the pros and cons of including devices in their classroom; many others are just responding to the pressure that they have to innovate and educate, knowing that digital technology is an essential tool in present days. There are no clear regulations as to how kids are supposed to use them, where and how long they are allowed, and furthermore, they are not educating them in basic principles of digital use and digital citizenship before giving them access to them. Think of it as if schools decided cars were an educational tool, and forced you as a parent to provide a car to your kids to go to school. Yes, it may be super useful and productive, and they may go on outings, and they may learn a lot of things, but wait… Did they even get a driver’s license or permit? Why is the school having my kids drive if they’re not ready? My thoughts exactly.
So… What can you do? It’s not always as simple as choosing a different school. Even worse, most schools are doing the same and following trends.
So here are 5 things you can do:
- Participate: It is truly important that you stay as involved as possible and generate a dialogue with teachers and other authorities to know what their expectations and goals are with the use of devices. Make sure there are behavioral guidelines set as to where and why kids are required or allowed to use devices. Make sure they’re keeping age-appropriate screen times. And above all, make sure that there are academic activities that still develop your kids’ social, emotional, and physical skills and abilities. No screens during recess, no phones during class, set specific mobile-use activities or periods, etc.
- Compensate: If your kid is spending most of his or her school day using devices, then have your house as a device-free zone. Engage with them in other activities. Encourage music, reading, sports, or outdoor recreation activities. Make them take part of house chores, anywhere from just dusting, vacuuming, gardening, taking the trash out, grocery shopping, etc.
- Stay involved: If you think social media and devices may be simple or trivial, think again. Learn about new apps, check how devices work, be aware of privacy settings, hacks, software, malware, and all that fun stuff. Connect with other parents and create a community to stay on top of things regarding social media and devices.
- Enforce: Having a device will indirectly “enable” your kid to have access to social media, apps, or email accounts. This is illegal for kids under 13, and in some platforms even 16 or 18. Don’t allow them to use or open these accounts or apps on their own with fake ages or data. If they must use apps and accounts, you should be the one in charge and responsible for their online behavior, until they are able to comply with it.
- Take charge. Make sure to emphasize that even though they will be using the device, it is not THEIRS. You provide and own the device, and set the rules for it. If it was required by the school, then the online guidelines to follow are yours and those required by teachers, and preferably in coordination.
Share this with other parents, teachers, and teaching authorities; they may not know how to cope with this new scheme of things.