Independent Education Spring 2020

Independent Education • Spring 20 88 Getting it right together: Be in Touch offers a digital parenting guide BY JOSH RAMSEY It is, in my opinion, clearer than ever that the role of schools and teachers is even more essential than we ever knew before this nationwide lockdown. P arents now have some small insight into the challenges that teachers face every day in educating children, and children are realising themselves how dependent they are on school for their social connections. Creating learning opportunities for children has not been as simple as delivering classes with video cameras and online worksheets. Teachers play an essential role in maintaining normalcy in an abnormal time for children. They are a constant touchpoint for their students in this new isolated world. Teachers have had to hone their ability to pick up on the emotional states of their students from the small amount of information they can glean from the video screen. I am a co-founder of Be in Touch (BIT). Our organisation comprises a group of parents with expertise in the fields of psychology, law, and marketing. We were brought together by our passion for managing how our kids experience and engage with the digital world. Working with teachers and parents In our work with parents, we have found that the main challenges they are currently facing right now include: • a marked increase in the time their children spend ‘on- screen’ and, therefore, the challenges to control what their children are doing with their devices • managing their professional lives as they work from home with constant interruptions – and, in response to these two challenges • how they can set appropriate disciplinary boundaries for their children and follow through with consequences. This is a great opportunity for teachers and parents to improve how they relate to one another, and to understand the roles and responsibilities each party has with regard to the educating and raising of children. Helping parents to be more consistent, conscious and caring invites them to be hands-on about the digital environment within which their children are growing up. Now, more than ever, the need for digital discipline and the ability to make healthy digital choices is crucial. How do teachers help parents to understand their digital parenting role? Parents need to know that although teachers can, to a certain degree, monitor their children whilst they are learning remotely, it is impossible for teachers to limit students’ access to digital devices. The lockdown environment has highlighted the need for even greater digital discipline in our homes. Therefore, BIT has created a simple and practical approach to digital parenting. We would like to share the following tips: 1. Be mindful of screen time If parents are unaware of how much time they are spending on screens themselves, they will have more of a challenge in recognising that they need to do something about this for their children. Invite the parents at your school to monitor their own screen time use using Digital Wellbeing (Android) or Screentime (IOS), so that they can reflect on their own daily screen time. If their children have devices of their own, ask them to encourage their children to do the same. 2. Create a digital family alliance Parents need to create digital limits for their families, and essential to this conversation is explaining what the consequences are for breaking the limits. As a school, you can help parents understand that this is an ongoing conversation that the family will need to revisit.