Technology lives and breathes in classrooms across the country. While schools may vary in their level of integration or by the grade-level introduction, what was once something of a controversy, technology education has pretty much become standard fare from K to 12. We can ask ourselves if this is good or bad or if the evidence supports that educational outcomes have been improved by this change, and opinions will vary. But the salient questions every parent must be asking are: What are the implications of this embrace of tech in the classroom? Are your kids getting more than they asked for? What’s the “digital baggage” that comes with that school provided or mandated tablet, computer, or Gmail account?

Savvy Cyber Kids encourages parents to get involved in their kid’s digital lives—and this includes monitoring your children’s access to technology through their schools. We cannot assume that our schools have systems in place to keep our kids safe at all times. And based on experience, and I can tell you that your kids are getting access to more technology services than you may be willing to give them permission to have in your own home.

Once they bring that school-issued or mandated laptop or tablet home—whether your child is at an Apple, Google or Microsoft school, or link to their school email account, they are no longer held back by whatever digital controls you have in place. Parents beware, thanks to technology education, there are things you need to know about as a parent that your kids get access to by default.

Unwittingly or not, kids will use their school-enabled technology learning programs independently in their free time, in ways you did not expect them to.

  • Even if you have not given your child a personal email account yet, their school has and their teachers are likely not monitoring each child’s use of this email address and how it is being used for personal use.
  • Maybe you have allowed your child to text and you diligently monitor their personal phone for inappropriate texting – but did you know that chat features are most likely a feature of their school technology programs? Have you been monitoring that account?
  • Collaborative learning is a mainstay of technology education and this means your child has access to live streaming, like Google Hangouts and Skype. Have you allowed this in your home yet? Have you talked to your child about how to appropriately use this level of technology?
  • What else could be hiding behind technology education? How about a group shared document with an innocuous name that kids type back in forth to each other, hiding their instant communications from parent’s eyes. Sure, it’s self-contained from a broader digital audience but it could still be used for no good like cyber bullying.

Corporations like Apple, Microsoft and Google push their technology heavily to get integrated into schools. While there is a small sub-set of schools without technology, the vast majority of parents want technology in the schools and that means it is there. Technology sales representatives regularly meet with principals and superintendents. Fundraisers are regularly held in schools for increasing technology integration. While you may not be ready to give your kids access to texting, email or video conferencing, society has decided for you and offers these potentially dangerous digital communications as a part of standard technology education programs.

So, what’s a parent in the digital age to do? In the end, it comes down to you. There is no software or no app that can fix this problem in totality. As a parent, you are the very best control. Technology is here to stay in the classroom and you need to know what your school’s technology education program gives your child access to. The time for the Tech Talk is now. You need to talk to your kids about technology use and this means you need to help them with their technology use. Observe how they use their technology tools and ensure that they are are using technology for good.

But beyond that, it’s up to you to teach them to not just survive but thrive with technology. Learn as much as you can about your school’s technology education program so that you can understand what you need to do as a digital parent. Ask your school:

  • How do you protect student’s information and data privacy?
  • How are apps and programs reviewed that are used in the classroom?
  • Are there filters in place at school to prevent students from coming in contact with inappropriate content? Ask what considerations have been given to filters that block content beneficial to education? If the school laptop of tablet comes home, ask if parents can put filters or other parental controls on school-issued devices for monitoring home-use.
  • Ask what accounts your child has access to as part of the school’s technology education program. Ask if your school has a written technology policy so that students and parents understand how technology should and should not be used at school and when on at school.
  • Learn about the school’s policies when cyberbullying and other inappropriate use of technology is discovered or reported.
  • Ask about the policies in place when a student asks to use an app, tool, or resource that the teacher does not recognize. What are the procedures for students submitting tools for approval?
  • Gain an understanding of the methods used to teach critical thinking, especially when students evaluate the quality of digital resources.
  • Ask what is the budget for new technology and how does the school decide which devices and programs to purchase and use?

Don’t forget to talk to your child. Take the time to share with your child how you are concerned with your own digital reputation and how you ensure that what people learn about you online reflects what you want them to see. Teach them about good hygiene, that is social media hygiene, and the steps you take to keep your information in social media accounts appropriate.

Talk about the limitations of some technology solutions and the challenges of being distracted by technology. Share with them how you deal with technology limitations and distractions.

Ask how he or she is using technology in the classroom. You will better understand the learning environment and have a chance to not only learn from each other but also see what aspects of technology your child is excited by. Find out their favorite way to use devices for learning or what they are good at when it comes to technology. Ask if there is something new they have learned or seen and ask them to share it with you. Ask them how they think their technology education could be improved.

Share what you learn with your school and be a part of the technology conversation.

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