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Parents advised to be proactive in children’s social media and technology usage


Parents advised to be proactive in children’s social media and technology usage

BY ALEXANDER WILLIS

As technology continues to become a larger and larger part of everyday life, parents and teachers alike are continuing to brainstorm ways to help kids maintain a healthy relationship with all that tech.

Director of Instructional Technology for Williamson County Schools Kelly Wade, visited Brentwood High School Wednesday to discuss with parents this very topic, and how it fits into the school district’s Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) program.

The BYOT program is a district-wide policy that allows for students to use their own personal devices; a smartphone, tablet, Chromebook, or any other device during certain classes to enhance their learning experience. As social media and other non school-related platforms continue to grow in popularity, Wade advised parents to get more involved in their children’s social media usage, placing restrictions and educating them on its potential dangers.

“What you post on social media lives forever,” Wade said. “How many times have we seen the athletes in college, who a tweet comes up seven, eight years later and they said something inappropriate, [and] all of a sudden are losing scholarships. As soon as you create a social media profile, you have just branded yourself. Those are the kinds of conversations that you have to have with your kid.”

PHOTO: Director of Instructional Technology Kelly Wade speaks during the Bring Your Own Technology parent meeting at Brentwood High School Wednesday night / Photo by Alexander Willis

Wade went into great detail on how parents can set restrictions on their children’s social media and technology usage. Wade advised first to simply use the features already on most smartphones to restrict usage. Using either an iPhone or Android phone, parents can set a parental lock that requires a password to access certain features, or limit the use of a particular application to a set amount of time.

Wade also noted that many Internet providers include parental restriction features for free in their basic services, such as time limits on certain websites, or outright restrictions on certain websites based on content.

“I know a lot of time parents want to just yank it, but here’s the problem: when we were in school, we got our social value out of friends that we had on a basketball team, or the chess club, or maybe a church youth group,” Wade said. “This generation gets their social worth off of social media. For better or different, that’s where we are. So you take that phone away, you’ve just now taken away access to their friends.”

Another useful resource Wade mentioned was Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that allows parents to not only limit their children’s media access by content, but actively filter all media by areas parents would like to see their children improve in, such as empathy, curiosity or learning. Specific profiles can be set up for each individual child for families with multiple kids, and filters can be applied across multiple media mediums and devices.

Parents can access Common Sense Media’s free tools online by clicking here.

During the question and answer segment of the informational class, one issue brought up by parents was children accessing inappropriate content on their devices at school. While students that are connected via their school’s Wi-Fi will have some restrictions placed on their Internet usage, kids can easily disconnect from the school’s Internet and use their own network, thus bypassing the restrictions.

Wade said that the district would like to put mechanisms into place that force students to only use the school’s network, ensuring Internet restrictions are always adhered to during school hours.

Since the BYOT program’s inception in 2011, Wade said that the school district has purchased more than 27,000 Chromebooks for students’ use. Compare that to the district’s student body of just over 40,000, and it’s not far-fetched to think students may all be able to be assigned their own personal Chromebook in the near future. Also of note is that the BYOT program is only applicable to grades 3 – 12, making the one-to-one ratio of students to computers even closer to reality.

Having each student assigned a school-provided Chromebook would ensure they more closely adhere to the district’s internet rules and restrictions.

Wade also reminded parents that per school policy, “students are not permitted to use a cellular network adapter or other Wi-Fi networks to access the Internet while at school,” and that the continued purchasing of devices is a means to see this policy further enforced.

“I want to see us have kids that are happy and healthy,” Wade said. “We’ve all seen the stories and statistics on how screen time can have a negative impact, but I also see where technology can have a positive impact when used appropriately. It’s a great tool for instruction, and that’s what my job is, to foster that.”

The next BYOT parent information meeting will be held at Fairview High School on December 11, and later at Franklin High School on December 13.

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