What Do Parents Know Anyway?

Well last night was interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly despite the fact that we have around 118 families in our senior unit that could have potentially attended our internet information evening last night, in the end we had only 21 represented. This is despite personal invitations being sent to all families including a discussion of the potential for problems related to internet use. Reflecting on the relatively small turnout I wonder is it that the non-attendees don’t have any major concerns with their children using the internet; is it that they presume the school wouldn’t do anything to endanger their children; is it that they simply haven’t heard the media concern or is it that they haven’t drawn threads between this media concern and their children in particular? Of course there will always be some families who can’t or don’t attend such events, but less than 25% attending is challenging.

For those who did attend I thought that the whole discussion was very illuminating. Because of the relatively small numbers the discussion was very informal. Initially I started off soliciting questions from the parents. The main question centred around what are blogs, wikis and podcasts and how are they structured to minimise risk. The other major question related to internet filters and which were the most effective. The latter was the hardest question to answer as this was an area that I have the least experience in.

My take on this question was that filters work up to a point but that eventually filters often serve to promote behaviours that are not terribly productive. Filters often become just another challenge to overcome or stand as a lack of trust in their children’s ability to make choices.They also tend to delay the student from making “mistakes” at an early age. This at an age when it may be easier to engage in a conversation about the appropriateness of surfing behaviour. Later when peer group pressure and other factors may drive the behaviour they may make less appropriate decisions. In this situation it is much more difficult to hold such discussions. My suggestion was that it was far more important to build trust with their children in relation to internet usage. That way when children do have any “bad experiences” with the internet they may be more inlined to discuss it with their parents.

This argument seemed to be well accepted as was the discussion and exampling of the way blogs, wikis and podcasts work. (One parent came over at the end of the evening to say how that at his work they were just starting to develop a workplace wiki yet his son was already working with one at school.) Today I was also more than pleased to have a couple of the attendees seek me out to say thanks for the information. Even with less than 25% the evening as well worth it.

I wonder what have been the experiences of others who have conducted similar information events?

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7 Responses to What Do Parents Know Anyway?

  1. Barbara says:

    I like your take on the filter issue. I may use that line of reasoning because it fits so nicely with our goal of teaching ethical and responsible use. I’m not sure however what your title means….it might be taken in a negative vein.

  2. johnp says:

    Hi Barbara,
    Thanks for the support. When I was talking about our presentation with other staff one of the things that struck me was that whilst we as teachers may have some of the knowledge about the pros and cons about some of this Web 2.0 stuff we were the ones who paradoxically had the least “control” over the student’s internet use. At school they surf behind filters, often in groups and within set time parameters, whilst at home they may have cart blanche. Our one on one contact is also restricted. It’s often a case of the ones with the knowledge have the least leverage and vice versa which makes for another interesting dilemma.
    As to the Title, as I say to my students be a headliner, try to be a little ambiguous to make people read the article. 🙂

  3. They want to talk to us. We just have to try to listen to what they say and how they say it. It is sad that children turn to the internet for solutions instead of their parents.

    Listen to them.

  4. johnp says:

    Hi Fazil and Fazana

    Oh how true it is that as parents we need to attend to not only the message but to the way in which it is expressed. However whilst the internet can provide solutions contrary to what we as parents might espouse, it can also provide the impetus for a wider discussion or indeed an affirmation of the parental position. I’m sure that many parents find affirmation in your site, (or at least question how they are going about their own parenting), as indeed I know that some of my students have used the internet expressions of others as a source of positive personal growth.

  5. I’m planning a Parent Internet Safety Night for this week so your reflections and ideas are extremely timely. I’m downloading Mark Ahlness’s presentation as I type – it will be interesting to see how many parents turn up to my gig. Thanks for the pointers.

  6. johnp says:

    Hi Graham,

    As it turns out I simply started out by asking the parents to give me the questions that they wanted out of the evening. Basically they wanted to know what were blogs, wikis and strangely podcasts and how they worked. They also wanted to know about internet filters, (which I answered, should I say fumbled through firstly). I also stressed the need for parents to keep open the lines of communication around the use of the internet. I then backtracked to blogs and wikis and showed them how they functioned using some our class examples. I then went into the security levels including comment moderation and member levels before going into wikis and how to track back. This was backed up with a discussion of “The Rules Rules” I have attached to each of our spaces as well as alert them to NetAlert and Cyberquoll. This seemed to cover most of their concerns.

  7. Mark Ahlness says:

    John, thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas. It sounds like those who came really got a lot from your presentation. It does take a good deal of confidence and competence to open up the content of an event like that to the attendees – way to go! I also appreciated your recent comment on the wwwedu list to the person who wanted to know if anybody had experienced success blogging in the classroom 🙂

    And now I must get busy prepping for my second family internet night of the year. A month to go in our school year up here, and one event/obligation after another, so the most challenging part will be just finding an evening when most can come.

    I hope you offer another internet evening for your parents this school year. I bet the word will have spread – Mark

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