|Children with mobile phones image from Shutterstock|
Oh yes things really have changed and I am convinced that for the most part the changes really are a good thing but of course there are challenges too and we'll explore some of those now.
It's against School Policy
This is a tough one as generally I always want to encourage our children to adhere to the school rules but actually I think school are being a bit short-sighted on this one. Without a mobile, how is my son to tell me if he misses the bus or if it breaks down, when there are no longer any call boxes and no public transport to where we live?
Practicality dictates for us that JJ (age 14) takes his phone to school with him and during the school day it stays on mute at the bottom of his bag. From what he tells me it is exactly what nearly every other child in the school does too, so it seems comical that the school keep reinforcing in their newsletter that phones must not be bought into school and if a child does they are breaking the school rules and any loss or damage will not be dealt with by the school. I suppose that is one way of them ensuring they don't have lots of parents banging on their door moaning about theft or breakage.
Choosing which handset to allow your child
When JJ first went up to Secondary aged 12 I didn't want him to have an expensive handset as we had no idea how well he would look after it. He is a typical boy and will happily walk along with his head bent over his phone on a game or chatting to friends if we let him but we have tried to enforce (who knows what is happening when we are not around) that the phone is to be used when he is stationary and that safety comes first. Accidents happen when kids walk and look at their phone, especially by the roadside.
Next September our twin girls will head up to Secondary school and the each already have an iPad or iPod so have proved themselves to be careful with their expensive gadget but still they will start with a cheap phone each. We have two old handsets, an old Sony Experia back from 2013 and a iPhone 5C from 2014, both handsets that I and JJ have used and now upgraded from.
The girls will have one of these each and after a year or so if they choose to put some birthday/ Christmas money towards a new handset they'll be able to upgrade to something fancier if they have roved themselves to be responsible.
Why is a mobile useful in school?
I've already mentioned the uses in regards to staying in touch and being able to inform or ask me if they want to go to a friends or miss their bus. I've also had JJ text me and apologise that he has forgotten his PE kit and can I 'pretty please' drop it in for him. I'm thankful this has only happened twice in over two years.
The calendar is also really useful for being able to see special occasion days or exam dates and 'Show My Homework' app is how JJ keeps track of whether he has done everything he should of. JJ also uses his mobile o the bus on his school school journeys to be able to start drafting homework and then email it to himself, to complete online maths work and he is often practising on apps such as 'Duo Lingo' for his Spanish lessons.
The other secondary that is local to us has really embraced how useful tech is to their pupils and every student has an iPad with all the apps on it they need for a good days learning. JJ uses his phone in much the same way.
|Girl with phone and Scooter image from Shutterstock|
The downsides to having a mobile at school
I've already mentioned that for JJ it is against the school rules and in one way this is good as it means he can't use it in school and this limits the time he is glued to his screen. Can you imagine the trouble he'd get in if a teacher found him on Minecraft under his desk or texting a mate at playtime? I am glad of this limitation on screen time as JJ is so tech savvy that given a choice he'd be on a screen 24/7 and that's not good for anyone.
I'm really pleased that JJ doesn't have any real interest in social media. He is on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp but they are mostly practical decisions for him. Insta he uses with his Church youth group, FB for family and all our international friends that come to live in our community short-term and WhatsApp for events in our community. The one he does love and live on is Discord, which is a closed chat room for him and his gamer mates. It is such a good thing he can't access this at school!
School is somewhere that you want your child to feel safe and nurtured. There is enough pressure on them to perform and to meet the expectations without any pressure from social media for them to wear the 'right' clothes or act in the the cool way. I am already worrying about my girls and especially one of them who seems particularly impressionable, so we are talking about how she can manage to remain true to herself and not get led into things that I don't approve, of as they aren't good for her.
5 Ways to protect your children
- I've been very honest with my children about the risk of Cyberbully and also about unknown people trying to friend and groom them, so I like to think they are using their tech with a good awareness but you can never rest on your laurels as a parent and it is prudent to stay vigilant. I do think keeping the lines of communication open is the most important thing you can do.
- Help yoru children to understand the risks of sharing pictures and information online and how what goes online is always there, somewhere.
- Educate yourself as you may find that your child is more tech savvy than you. A good starting place is the Governments guide for parents whose children are using social media. Sites like Internet Matters and Think U Know are also excellent.
- Ensure you retain the passcode for your child's phone and also the passwords for accessing their accounts like email and social media and then do spot checks to see what they have been getting up to.
- Download security software such as Kaspersky Security Cloud which can provide some peace of mind to you as a parent. There are a whole host of features that you can employ across a number of devices such as limiting screen time, setting suitable hours for access, showing you via the parental MyKaspersky account where the phone currently is and what websites the child has been accessing, including questionable ones they attempted to access and you can then decide whether to allow them access or not. Of course even with all this information at your fingertips it goes back to the first point that you'll need to talk to your children and encourage them to be honest with you.
It is a changing world we live in and our kids are often more clued up than us but we don't need to be scared of what may happen, we just have to be brave. Brave enough to be the one who opens the conversation about whatever it is that is troubling us. We have to verbalise it, so our children know we have their very best interests at heart and we will always be there to protect them.
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Why not pin this post for later?
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