These days we are more conscious of safer technology practices for teachers and students. Often we forget that some of the foundational learning around technology occurs at home and outside of school. Parents and older siblings are often a child’s first exposure to tech use via observation and some hands-on sharing.
In the early years of school, there are many bridging programs that support early literacy and numeracy activities in the home. These are designed to better prepare our young students for their later years. We do little formal or informal home-school bridging around technology use. While we might rightly assume that most children live in a house with others who can read, write & do math at the basic levels required by society. (Of course, there are notable exceptions.) Assuming that older members of a child’s home are technologically literate and practice “safe surfing” is a much bigger stretch—one that we as educators should rarely make. I would suggest that every school or district provide a home technology literacy strategy that reaches beyond the “did-you-see-&-sign-our-acceptable-use-policy” approach.
Here’s my first suggestion. Create a tip sheet—or section—in your newsletters at the beginning of school. Add to it throughout the year. If your school’s on board, do it via the school newsletter. If it’s not, do it in your newsletter. Tips you might include are:
- Keep the computer your child is using in a “public” space.
- Monitor your child’s activities on the computer.
- Talk to your child about what s/he is doing. For example, “How did you hear about this site? What’s so great about this site? What kinds of things can you do here?” This lets them know that you are actually paying attention and are interested in what they are doing with technology.
- Activate the parental controls via your Internet Service provider or internet browser to block adult content.
- When young, establish a “screen name” for your child & do not let them use their full—or even close to full—name so that strangers cannot identify them.
- Periodically check that s/he is keeping this up.
- Access to online sites & services should be phased in developmentally appropriate steps:
- For a young child to grade 3/4, you as the parent should set up accounts on your child’s behalf on the sites you approve. Have your child participate along with you or through your account. You would keep your login information & physically login for your child when s/he wants to use the site or service. You would select any “friends” or buddies that connect with this account.
- As your child gets older and more technologically mature (grades 4-7/8), you may allow her/him to set up accounts for her/himself on sites you approve using the screen name you established. The child would have to share the usernames & passwords for each service with you. If any site required an email address, your child would always supply Mom or Dad’s email (or a Teacher’s email address—if it’s a class thing).
- As your child becomes more independent, and technologically mature (grade 7/8 onward), she/he may acquire her/his own email address and accounts as you deem appropriate. This would be after your child has already learned and demonstrated proper and safe internet practices. Even so, from time to time, you should check in with your child, ask him/her to show you what s/he is doing on the sites, ask how s/he found out about the site, discuss activities, things on the site that may have upset him/her, things that s/he may have liked.
At the beginning of each year, set up a strategy for supporting “acceptable” technology use at home. Maybe your school would sponsor a parent-tech night—where a tech savvy faculty member can go over tips, show parents how to set controls on browsers, what sites are used in the school, etc. In your letters, newsletters, and other communications, share tips with parents. When the school’s acceptable use policy goes out for students & parents to sign, send out a ready-to-go template (paper & electronic) for a “home-version”. If your school or district isn’t onboard—you could do it just for your classes.
Here’s what I might send out as a “home version” for elementary students. (I invite you to share yours if you draft one.)
Our House Rules of Using The Computer & Internet
- I know using the computer & the internet is a privilege. As long as I follow the rules, I will be able to use them.
- I will treat the computer carefully.
- I will keep any account usernames & passwords secret.
- I may only share them with Mom & Dad and maybe my teacher– but no one else.
- I only use a screen name when online.
- I only connect with my approved friends because I know I can trust them.
- If anyone else wants to contact me, I will check with Mom & Dad or my teacher first.
- I keep my phone number secret from people online.
- I keep my address secret from people online.
- I do not put pictures of myself, my friends or family, online.
- If I want to share a picture, I will ask Mom or Dad to do it.
- I will be polite, & use appropriate language on the computer.
- I will not say, write or put anything bad about other people online.
- If I see, read or hear bad things about others I know, I will let my Mom, Dad or teacher know about it.
- I will not visit sites that talk about or show gambling, drugs, alcohol or naked people.
- If I see, read or hear things that are not good for kids, I will let my Mom, Dad or teacher know about it.
Do you, your school, or district have a home-school bridging strategy or technique to share? Please do.