Ever wonder what your children are really doing on their phones and computers? One school in Singapore decided to find out. Craig Kemp, Head of Educational Technology at Stamford American International School, talks to us about the school’s student-led teaching sessions where parents ask questions about the kids’ online habits. And, the kids do the talking.
Many parents are concerned about technology as it wasn’t a part of their own childhoods. You must field a lot of questions. What are parents asking?
Yes, and I have to say parents are getting better over time at focusing more on the positive than the negative. They ask:
- How much screen time is appropriate for certain ages?
- What digital rules should I enforce at home?
- How can I stop my child from multitasking while doing homework?
- Should I restrict apps or time spent on devices or do I leave it open?
One of your student-led sessions gave students the opportunity to tell adults the truth about what they’re really doing online. Were the kids nervous about opening up about their online habits?
We pitched the idea to the kids, and we immediately had their buy-in. They wanted to have a voice. The kids said their parents worry about what they do online – that they focus on the negatives. They wanted to say that most of what they do online is positive.
So that the students could be completely open and honest, we co-constructed a rule with them that they didn’t have to answer a question if it made them feel uncomfortable. Also parents couldn’t go to the group with their own child, unless the child agreed to it.
What exactly did the students want their parents to know?
We narrowed down five categories that we – meaning the teachers and students – all felt were important. They were:
- SnapChat, Yellow, Sarahah and Polly.fun
- Instagram and Musical.ly
- Messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Fam on iMessage
- Netflix and YouTube
- Parental controls, device control strategies and time management strategies
Yellow; Sarahah; Polly.fun – I’ve never ever heard of these!
Yes. Interestingly, the kids said these specific apps aren’t prominent in our school but they wanted parents to know that they’re out there, and they’re not good. Parents can read about these apps on Common Sense Media. As a school, we use the globally recognised Common Sense Media platform as a base. All SAIS staff are Common Sense Media certified, which shows our dedication to staying safe and ahead of the game when it comes to digital learning.
How did the idea for these sessions begin?
This is something we’ve done at Stamford for a few years based on our dedication to digital learning for our whole community. We wanted to empower our students to share their experiences in a safe and open forum. We provide support and guidance, but ultimately these sessions are driven and owned by the students and parents.
Plus, it’s clear there is increasing tension between kids and parents about the digital world we now live in. The fact is that kids simply know more than we do. As parents, we must learn that this is okay. In fact, I encourage it! Let them teach us!
How important is it that the kids do the talking?
Students are straight up, honest and say it how it is. Parents listen to them, and the kids have a voice that needs to be heard. Personally, I’m a huge believer in student voice and student agency. We love the idea of empowering students to teach and share their knowledge. They are the experts after all.
What were the main takeaways from the social media session?
The kids said locking devices down doesn’t make problems go away. They want openness and transparency with their parents. They want to be trusted. One student said, “If I listen to music while I study and I get good results, I’m doing just fine. I learn differently to you, and that’s okay.” The kids blew me away with their honesty and speaking abilities. They were positive and showed a genuine desire to share their knowledge with the parents. I hope the parents took away that it’s okay to not have all the answers, and that it’s okay to ask for help.
How did the kids feel about parents who micromanage their online habits?
They said this caused them to hide more because they didn’t want to “get in trouble”, even though they weren’t necessarily doing anything wrong. They felt that when clear rules and guidelines were co-created, rather than enforced without their say, they were more willing to follow along.
What is a better way for parents to monitor their kids’ online habits?
At Stamford we provide regular sessions for parents to support them with this. We suggest they subscribe to Common Sense Media to read about parents’ online concerns, family media plans and ways to ensure device-free dinners.
For more information, visit commonsensemedia.org.
For more on SAIS’s tech news and events, visit Craig Kemp’s blog at mrkempnz.com.
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