Top Tech Tips For Parents
Top Tech Tips for Parents
By Chelsy Hooper, MS Technology Integration
M. Ed., Common Sense Digital Citizenship Certified Educator
Whether you are a parent new to school-required technology at home, or you are a tech-savvy parent with experience in guiding your child’s tech use, our Top Tech Tips set you and your family up for tech success.
- Talk with your child about technology. As technology changes, and as your child’s use of technology changes, they’ll need someone they can trust whom they can talk to about new apps, privacy issues, accounts, and online drama. Ongoing conversation is the number 1 tool for a parent. Help them become aware of what online behavior is acceptable and what isn’t. Find conversation starters at Netsmartz.org.
- Educate yourself and stay informed. If you are unfamiliar with teen use of technology, learn about it. Be able to hold informed conversations with your child. Check out the sites they are visiting and the apps they are using. Have your child share his/her social media and other account usernames and passwords with you in case you need to help them with managing the accounts, and/or get an account yourself. Stay current by being aware of new apps, changes in terms of agreements, and privacy settings. For example, the TikTok app; a popular video-sharing app: Common Sense Media App Review.
- Know your child and adjust accordingly. Every child is different; some are able to navigate technology easier than others. Especially in middle school, students are developing at different rates, and need some guidance in social and character development offline and online. As teens become more social, they become more social online. Consider your child’s maturity level and your tolerance level for technology management before giving him/ her a personal device. Use mistakes as teachable moments. If a serious issue arises, act on it rather than letting it go. Check out Seven Ways Parents Can Help 13-year-olds Start Their Social Media Lives Right.
- Support the purpose of the school laptop. Reiterate with your student that their laptop is a tool to be used to help him or her learn. Have your student complete their laptop-based homework in a public area of your home. Chances are if your student is spending 4 hours “doing homework on the laptop” in his or her bedroom, he or she isn’t doing homework. Check the school website for homework and projects so you are knowledgeable as you address this. Often, your child knowing that you can check on his/her laptop use is enough to keep him/her on task. Helping him or her develop healthy screen habits now such as 20-20-20 (every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds to prevent eye strain from looking at a screen) and practicing good ergonomics will serve him or her well. Help him or her find an area of your home (not his/her bedroom) that allows the laptop to be charged overnight and makes for easy access to getting the laptop in his/her backpack in the morning. A backpack with a dedicated laptop section will help.
- Let your child know that you are involved and interested in how he/she is using his/her school laptop. Let him or her show you recent schoolwork completed such as an iMovie video or a group project in Google Slides. Ask them about what new skills they learned and how they might apply them to other assignments in the future. You can apply this to personal devices as well. For example, if video games are present in your home, play with him or her, model appropriate gaming behavior, and have fun together! Check out 10 Awesome Games You’ll Want to Play with Your Kids.
- Be involved and interested without hovering. Students will learn how to manage their time on their laptops, as they realize (but may need to be reminded at first) that they need to get their homework done. A recent survey of our middle school students showed that the majority of students find managing their time while completing homework on the laptop “easy” or “very easy.” Continue to encourage this. Basic study skills also apply to homework on the laptop. Students report utilizing strategies such as putting their phones away/ eliminating other distractions such as turning off TV, only opening tabs on browser that they are working on, taking 5 min. breaks every 40 min., listening to music if environment is noisy, turning music off if it’s distracting, doing hardest thing first, doing laptop homework first, using multiple windows on laptop to take notes, etc. Learn more about time management in You vs. the Clock.
- It’s okay to have some fun, too, but practice what you preach. Discuss media consumption moderation and develop guidelines suited for your family. Some personal time (on appropriate activities) on the laptop is fine, after work is done (ex: 20 mins. of Minecraft after homework is finished). Talk with your child about what online after-homework activities would be appropriate; let them generate the list, and check it together. Make a media use plan and make sure you stick to it as well.
- Talk to other parents about technology use. See how other parents are handling the use of technology in their home, but do what is best for your family, according to your values. Keep wifi and personal devices in mind when your child goes to other families’ homes, and when you host other families’ children. Have a conversation with the other family about what devices, video games, etc. will or will not be used.
- Use a filter at home for personal devices to help keep the worst of the Internet at bay. USJ has a filter in place on our school network. Know that no filter is perfect; teaching and reiterating responsible use is the best path. Resources for filtering personal devices are listed at the end of this article.
- Know that you have a partner in this. USJ considers the education of the student on technology use even more important than issuing the equipment. Digital Citizenship is a recurring topic in SEL class, where students take active roles in age-appropriate discussions on online privacy, oversharing, online drama, cyber-bullying, digital footprint, and current events involving these issues. Students also learn about how to develop a positive online presence through posting accomplishments, service-learning participation, and other positive posts. It is emphasized to students that who they are online is who they are offline- they represent themselves, always, through their persona and actions online just as they do offline; Digital Citizenship IS Citizenship. Middle schoolers are also addressed at large-group assemblies as needed throughout the year as new topics arise.
Students are best served by being taught how to leverage technology as a learning platform rather than being denied all access. Your child’s advisor is a good first contact point should you need to talk to someone at school regarding your teen’s school technology use. Working together, parents and teachers set students up for success by facilitating positive technology habits.