Now I love technology, but the following is related to an email I received from one of my colleagues who is similarly technological but yet concerned with detrimental effects of modern technology use on our students. This is an email I was writing to him in response. It’s a bit rough and needs more work but contains some important thoughts (if I may say so!!)
Computers and phones in bedrooms will become more and more of a problem. I think a large number (I would guess the majority) of parents have no idea what their kids are up to online. I have always told parents in newsletters and meetings to have the computer in a family area and to make bedrooms a technology free zone where possible. I also tell them to set up these expectations early as it is harder to convince a Secondary age child than a Primary child of where the computers in the house should be.
There are many factors in this issue, some relate to the developing (or un-developing) state of realistic and effective parenting ability, in turn these relate to work and society issues etc. Of course many of the factors relate to the technology itself and the relationship we have as individuals to such a rapidly changing set of tools and toys. As society realises how all this will pan out I believe it will be inevitable that schools will become more involved in being seen as the responsible party. I think a lot of these technology chickens will come home to roost at the same time as the social, psychological, intellectual and physical effects of unwise use of technology become known.
In the EU at the moment there are proposals to ban mobile phones and WiFi in schools due to uncertainty in the risk of electromagnetic radiation http://bit.ly/jguNwn. These effects will only add to other issues as the research is done, such as in the case of the effect of viewing porn.http://bit.ly/chSRWW http://bit.ly/q2JrKG
There are, of course, some very savvy parents who regulate their children appropriately (computer placement, mobile phone use, expectations of behaviour, Facebook sign up ages etc). This is great and encouraged by all teachers but brings with it a need to be careful, aware, empathetic etc. For example, some parents have very sensibly, decided, as a family, how they are going to regulate behaviour within the household with regard to online activity. This is worth supporting from the school’s perspective. However, many teachers using Internet-based or school-based web 2.0 tools for setting schoolwork can cause frustration and be seen to be undermining the parents’ authority. This is something that the vast majority of teachers try very hard to avoid as a good relationship between teachers and parents is always a significant positive influence on student outcomes. But, but, but … we need to expose kids to controlled forms of the environments that are available in the ‘outside’ world in order to teach, enable and assess students as responsible, skilled, informed and ethical. The answer is probably for teachers to carry on being good at what they do, but to be careful and keep their students’ parents in the loop.
It is probably advisable to have a committee of parents and students who work with us to make sure we are addressing and are seen to address many of these issues. Overall this is developing and very grey area and one that needs us all to put our thinking caps on for.
My school is developing its use of ICT and heading toward a 1:1 laptop program for students. One of the measures we are taking is to include in the terms, conditions, training and service of the 1:1 programme a supply of relevant guidance and information for parents.