We are preparing to host a day devoted to esafety. In doing so we will be inviting our parents to an evening session devoted to the knowledge that they need to possess and the role that they play in shaping children’s attitudes towards the use of ICT and mobile technology in school, home and family life. As a primer, this BBC news piece highlights important tensions and useful resources in the ongoing debate about very young children and their engagement with tech.
Recent discussions with staff at schools about defining duties within Education for Social Responsibility, of which more anon, lead us to recognise what is needed is a more honest appraisal of the roles and influence of teachers and parents in the lives of our children. And when it comes to the newness of digital tools at our disposal, we need to open our eyes to the possibilities and the pitfalls and not shy away from debate. Reason, good sense and centuries of sound educational theory will not be blown away in the sweep of a gesture across a tablet screen! So, crucially and inevitably it is adults – parents and teachers – that must model the appropriate behaviour and level of engagement. No mean feat, either for adults who themselves are keen and enthusiastic users of digital technology for work or leisure or those who abhor or who are even ambivalent to its subtle charms!
I am a parent of a 4 year old (boy) who can and does use iPhone and iPad. From an educator’s point of view I know he can engage with it ‘cleanly’, clearly developing skills and knowledge when using good ‘apps’ or watching, for exmple, Sesame Street on YouTube (carefully monitored). However there is also a good deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth – ours and his – about moderating access. Yet we know, we hope we know, that we are balancing this access with all that is good and right and wholesome in the life of a 4 year old such as his books, bikes and buddies.
And perhaps this is what has always vexed parents, the eternal question: am I doing the right thing? Ultimately this question cannot be answered, yet it must be one we remain unafraid to ask, either as parents or educators. Of ourselves or each other.