On Tuesday, March 4th Notre Dame School held a seminar concerning the ever growing topic of cell phones and children in order to help parents keep up with their kids with new technology.
Amanda Coles, Chair of Parents at Notre Dame Association, PANDA, and school council, started off the evening by addressing cell phone usage as an important issue for children in this world where everything is fast paced and led by new and upcoming devices. “If we ever want to keep up with our kids we have to know who they are talking to, how are they talking and how to keep them safe.”
The conversation of apps came up several times during the evening, as this seem to be quite a concern with parents and rightfully so. There are several apps being used now for communicating that parents are not aware of. Coles pointed out that facebook is being used less and less by kids because family, including aunts and uncles, are now using it and kids don’t want to share everything they are doing with them.
Coles says that she has been advised by other parents and believes that if a parent makes the rules too strict they may lose them on the web. “They will just go out and create a whole new profile and you will never know who they are, who they are talking to and what they are doing,” she explains.
Instead she suggests that parents allow them the freedom to use the technology with some monitoring, like always know the password for the phone and that you may check their phone at anytime.
The TELUS store in Leduc Common, Complete Communications, had representatives come out and talk about the different ways they could help parents. They discussed many insightful tidbits. They simply pointed out that a cell phone, much like a laptop, can have its history and cache cleared easily, and that parents should be aware that most kids know how to do that. TELUS representatives also expressed the different options such as phone monitoring, information on parent controls and assistance on answering questions about different apps, what some can do and what to look for. Parents that have questions or concerns are encouraged to come to their store if they have any questions.
Complete Communications has also put together a contract for parents to use with their child that establishes basic ground rules and expectations that a parent may be interested in.
The seminar included many basic steps on how to talk to your child with their cell phone including steps that the school itself has taken to address the concerns of cell phones and technology in the schools.
Tara Malloy, Notre Dame Vice principal, says that technology is an important issue for children today and it’s not going to go away. In her presentation Malloy acknowledges that in today’s world cell phones are common place. Everyone seems to have one. However, she asks the tough question that is often up for debate, “Should Cell phones be aloud at school?”
Malloy points out the pros and cons of a student having a cell phone at school. The advantages, such as communication between parents and children, are made much easier before or after school. The list for disadvantages, however, was much longer and included issues like incorrect usage of the phones, cell phones are a distraction from learning, students can be disrupted in class by ring tones, alarms and text notifications. She also points out that a student or teacher may have their privacy compromised from cameras or videos that may be taken. There are more opportunities that are offered for cyber bullying, as well as teachers being put in a position to police the use of the phones instead of concentrating on more important responsibilities.
So if the disadvantages far exceed the advantages why allow them in the schools at all? Malloy would argue that the best answer is to compromise and provide educational awareness. “A complete ban of cell phones, is today impractical and unrealistic, therefore specific rules are examined and put in place to keep the use of cell phones limited and secure during school hours, this still allows students to be in possession of a cell phone but with strict regulations upon their use”.
As a result of these issues and the growing concerns the school has been passionate about addressing technology in the schools. For the last few years, Notre Dame School, K-6, has been working extensively with Christ the King Junior/Senior High school counsellor, Heather Chyzowski to address the issue. “Technology is essential and wonderful but if we don’t put the education component in before we allow freedom of devices in the school, then we are setting ourselves up for failure,” says Malloy.
The two schools work together to teach the students on how to be responsible when using their cell phones. Malloy says that sometimes they are completely honest with the students, shocking them with what could happen in their life if they made a poor decision. “We show them real life situations, we talk about scams, schemes, their privacy, and why it’s important to save themselves from sharing information online and what could happen if they don’t,” she says.
Both teachers have instituted the program in their own way but they have gone through the curriculum together and have found a way to make a smooth transition from one school to the other. Malloy says that she will assist in whatever parents need to help them understand the program. “If they want to go through and see some of the lessons I’m actually teaching for digital citizenship I would be more than willing to go through that as well.”
Malloy expressed Notre Dame Schools excitement to embrace the new vision of technology, working with community, parents and students as they grow and move forward in the bring your own device (BYOD) era. They are planning on doing more seminars to help assist parents along with the technology advancements.