With more schools providing tablets or laptop computers to students, and more families purchasing cell phones, many parents are left wondering how to best support their children's learning, while at the same time, protecting them from the hidden perils of inappropriate web users. Some ill-advised tweeting and decision-making by my son and some of his friends reminded me that all parents need to provide protections and guidance to promote responsible use of the Internet, and related technologies. Parents need to understand that there will always be risks, but planning, communication, and proactive steps can help minimize these risks. These days, "it takes a network to raise a child."
Here are several strategies for parents that are looking to support and secure their 1:1 households.
- Acquire at least a basic understanding of the hardware and it's features and capabilities. Set expectations for capturing and sharing images, recordings, and personal information. Our schools are 1:1 with iPads. What are the creative capacities of this device? How can it be used to support learning activities at home? The iPad can be used for reading, for composing music, for messaging, for navigation, for collaborating, for networking, note taking, for gaming, and hundreds of other potential uses.
- Actively participate in your child's technology use. Recreational use is not necessarily the worst thing in the world. Realize that many games involve challenges and problem-solving that support meaningful learning. Social media can provide a wealth of resources and communication in support of education. Our schools use Schoology for our classroom learning management system. One of the helpful features of this LMS is the ability for parents to view instructional activities, engage in classroom discussions, and monitor their child's progress in the class. Regularly discuss Internet use, and become co-learners in the ways of social media, web-based research, and network communication.
- Parents should create opportunities to discuss expectations and cooperatively establish guidelines for Internet and technology use. Work under the assumption that all Internet activity can be discovered and monitored. Discuss the concept of digital footprints, and their permanence. A periodic Google search of family members names will reveal what is being shared or posted on the Internet. Google alerts can be set up to notify parents of something new popping to the web. All of our family members names are set up with a Google alert. Parents should discuss the potential consequences of an unflattering or damaging digital footprint. Support opportunities for children to create a positive digital footprint that will enhance their learning through the web supported networks.
- Keep computers and devices in centrally located, high traffic, and highly visible areas of the home. Limit or restrict opportunities for private browsing or chatting. Establish a central location for overnight charging and storage of mobile devices. Establish boundaries and limitations for technology use. For example, use of mobile electronics is not permitted during our family dinner time. Don't laugh; portable electronics are not allowed in the bathroom. And since we have teen drivers, cell phones are always put into airplane mode while driving.
- Obtain the username and passwords for all of the children's social media, email, and device accounts. If the device has a screen lock, secure the code for this too. Create a backup copy, and keep this information in two separate and safe locations. Location services, such as "find my iPhone" should be activated and enabled. An app such as this can help locate, disable, and recover a lost or stolen iPad or iPhone. (more about Find My iPad)
- Most, if not all, schools provide some degree of Internet content filtering (see CIPA). However, in many cases, including ours, that level of protection does not extend beyond the reach of the school's computer and wireless networks. Additionally, more schools are permitting the classroom use of cell phones to support communication and learning. However, schools do not typically filter or monitor personal 3G/4G cellular networks. Many cell and Internet providers offer content filtering to help protect family members from inappropriate, obscene, or dangerous material found on the web. Sprint, our cell provider, provides content filtering to our mobile devices supported on their network. Parental controls can also be established through either the Internet provider or an anti-virus agent. For example, Comcast, in partnership with Norton, can be set up to filter inappropriate content, monitor Internet activity, monitor chat sessions, and provide age-based Internet access to younger family members. Wireless routers and in-line content filters can be set up to protect homes from inappropriate use, identity theft, or restrict unwanted access. iBoss is one of many recommended products that offer home network security solutions.
- Finally, when children aren't meeting expectations with respects to responsible use, the devices themselves can have restrictions enabled on them. As I mentioned, our schools are 1:1 with iPads. Parents have the capability of setting restrictions on the iPad. Restrictions can be adjusted for the camera, age appropriate media, instant messaging, changing settings, Internet access, and numerous other features. One of the benefits of establishing web browsing restrictions is the Internet history cannot be deleted by the user. Temporary restrictions can also be created on the iPad or iPhone through Guided Access. This feature is helpful during times when a focus is needed to complete school related tasks, or when social interactions need to be limited.
While I am personally not a fan of restrictions and filtering, there are times when it becomes necessary to restrict access to the irresponsible user. Trust and teachable moments reign in our household, but we also have implemented many of these safeguards to give us parenting advantages while at the same time understanding and supporting connected learning with mobile, web-based, technologies.
- What technology challenges are you facing in your household?
- Are there other parenting strategies you could add to this list?
- How can schools better support technology use in the home?
- Your comments, suggestions, and questions are welcome. -
Family Safety Center - Google
Family Internet Safety & Security - Microsoft
Parent Concerns in a 1:1 iPad Initiative - EdTechSandyK