I came across a really interesting read on the BBC website today, regarding the effectiveness of removing internet access as a punishment for teenagers in today’s technology laden society! It’s worth taking a look, especially for parents of KS2 children. It doesn’t really tell the reader anything we don’t already know – teenagers need internet access for essentials homework, key learning and revision and they get sidetracked by the additional goodies that the wonders of the world wide web provide.
As a teacher and a parent, I have a foot on both sides of the fence with regards to this discussion. As a teacher I am acutely aware of the amazing resource bank that the web offers: revision tools, research databases, knowledge gathering opportunities, places to seek help and advice, places to have fun and socialise – all of these essential in our changing world. I actively encourage use of the web – in fact in some cases, certain awarding bodies EXPECT access to the web as standard and learners need to produce this evidence within their portfolio work. I also take my role as an online educator seriously – we regularly discuss e-responsibility as a part of the e-safety tutorials we deliver to groups. Staying safe online is as important as protecting your reputation online and this message is delivered with many real life examples (often from within their own peer groups) of those who seem to ignore, or dismiss their role in their own e-responsibility. There was once the young man who boasted online about his alcohol consumption on the previous weekend, who realised too late I had seen his status updates and profile pics, (because he had no locks on his profile) when he tried to call in with a ‘sickness bug’ following a 3 day hangover! As an under 18, his parents were involved and none too pleased with him, I can tell you… his social network account was quickly locked!
As the parent of a teenager and 11-year-old, I understand the pressure school children face to find the information they need as a part of their learning journey. But I also see more and more how much of a distraction the internet is becoming. But it doesn’t have to be as much of a struggle, as that described in the article…. working with children for so long, I have seen parenting mistakes come home to roost in teens, when they really didn’t have to. From a suitable age both our children have played with and had access to a range of digital devices: Nintendo DS/DSi, laptops, mobiles, tablets… However, even with those items that ‘belonged’ to the children, we have taken ultimate control of the time spent using them. As the parents – the adults – the decision makers – in the house, WE have the final say and in those formative years that process was essential to ensure that now, we are limiting conflict and dispute. In fact, as the parents in the house, we have the final say in many things that go on, not just usage of digital devices/online access! Don’t get me wrong, our house is far from the dictatorship you are no doubt picturing! We have many ‘healthy discussions’ as the children grow in confidence and independence over the decisions we make. They are and always have been a part of that process BUT – when we say enough is enough, they have learned to respect that the discussion is over.
At various times we have had ONE laptop – the family one. One tablet (until recently) – the family one. One PC – again, you guessed it, the family one. This has meant finding time to share these resources, to use time wisely and to enjoy the limited time available for games, web surfing or online shopping. That isn’t exclusively directed at the children – all of us have had to think about access and time management. Clearly, as they have gown, demands increase – as do the number of devices, but one thing remains – access for the children is controlled and monitored. I rarely let the children do online homework in their rooms – they use the same study space that they see me using when I’m planning lessons, writing reports or responding to work emails. Game time is also timed and monitored. I have seen the product of the parent who gives up, needs time and space and finds it all too easy to give in – that child is probably already used to getting their own way, creating a fuss over food, bed times, staying out, watching TV… and so the cycle continues.
In my view, being distracted by the safe side of the web is an essential learning experience. Poorly produced homework, as a result of poor time management should be a lesson for both child and parent. A child however, who needs to have web access denied totally, is very possibly also giving their parents the runaround in other areas of family life – that is a lesson for the parents and something they perhaps need some urgent reflection on.
I don’t profess to be an expert, but I have been in a fortunate position to work with the products of great parenting and we do try oh so hard to get it right! No doubt our very confident teen will read this and totally disagree… hey ho… Can’t win ’em all..
For more information for parents on helping your children stay safe online please visit: https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/parents/