Advice for Parents of 1:1 Programs

Anna left a comment on my blog post about 1:1 program with MS and HS students that reads:

My son attends a school where MacBooks are required from grades 8-12, and students use many different assistive technology tools. I believe that 1:1 is great as a learning TOOL, but because students have their laptops with them all the time, there is no “down” time when they have to use their own initiative to think, dream, plan, create w/o a screen. He gets up and will open the laptop before breakfast to play, he will play or noodle around with his iTunes in the car on the way to school, on the way home from school, and every other time that kids used to be unplugged. He is not creating, he is consuming. It is a huge fight in our household.

What advice do you have for parents in dealing with this dark side-effect of a mandatory BYOL environment?

by One Laptop per Child

It’s a good question and my first response is what is your school doing to help train parents on both their responsibility and management of technology that the school provides?

Here at ISB we do a couple of different things. We first have a mandatory meeting that at least one parent has to attend we run the same training three to four times at different time periods for parents. Of course the kids make them go as they want their laptops.

We also run a set of 5 courses called the ISB Technology Certificate for Parents. We’ve taken 100 parents through the program over the past two years. Now, not every parents will take it, but enough do and they talk to other parents and the message we give in the courses spreads through the community. Spreading an understanding of the use of the laptops and what parents can do to help support their children at home.

If a school is going to give every students a laptop, I feel, they have an obligation to not only train students but parents on good use of the technology.

My Advice For Parents:

Remember That You Are The Parent

When it comes to technology, many parents feel that they do not know enough to create limits and boundaries. Because of this they do not feel right taking the technology away. You are still the parent and in your house you make the rules. You have every right to take the computer away from your child if you feel they are not having enough “down time”. I know one family that the whole family felt out of balance so they unplug the Internet in their house. So everyone has to be disconnected at the same time. They use this time to reconnect as a family and just have some ‘down’ time.

Create Family Rules

The #1 thing you can do is have a conversation with your child. I strongly encourage every family to sit down and talk about exactly the points you raise. Make family rules that everyone can live by. No computer before breakfast, no computer in the car while someone is driving, etc. These are good times to be disconnected and be together as a family. If the parents also abide by these family rules then there is buy-in from everyone. Everyone having to give it up is easier then “Why do I have to give it up but Dad can still check email on is iPhone?”

Homework Shouldn’t Take Longer

“But mom, I’m doing my homework.” What a great way to play on your computer and waste time. If your school gave 2 hours of homework before the 1:1 program, they’re probably still only giving about 2 hours of homework after the 1:1 program. But students play this card a lot. Set a limit that you think is reasonable and if they don’t finish their homework in that set time, then too bad they don’t get their homework done. If they make the choice to use their time unwisely they pay the consequences. Learning to manage your time is a skill, especially in Middle School, that we all need to help teach students. The computer makes this harder, and also easier. We have parents e-mail or call teachers and let them know that their child did not finish their homework because they were playing around on their laptop. Teachers usually support this, the student gets a zero and usually a good talking to from the teacher. Sometimes if the problem persists, teachers will recommend after school detention or Saturday School as a consequence for not getting assignments done. It usually doesn’t take long before kids get the message.

Are They Really Just Consuming

Many times we think kids playing video games or “messing around” on their computers is not a learning experience. Take the time to watch and ask yourself “What are they learning?”. Creation with the laptop can sometimes be hard to spot. A great example is the game that is sweeping through our Middle School at the moment called Mindcraft. As far as games go these days, it is about as calm and creative as you are going to get. Basically you get to “build whatever you want” and I have to say I have seen our students build some pretty amazing things. Is it playing? Yes, with virtual legos. Creative? Absolutely. Future engineer? Very possible.

Conversation, Conversation, Conversation

Because you asked the question I know you’re thinking about it and it worries you, which tells me you’re a good parent. The best thing you can do is sit and have conversations with your child. Watch them play their games and ask them what they are doing. What do they think they are learning. Talk to them about how much time they spend on the computer and do they think it’s healthy? Take an interest in what they are doing on the computer in their free time helps to open up a dialogue between you and your child about the technology. If they know you are interested then they are willing to listen more when you start asking questions about how much time they spend “connected”.

We Still Know What’s Best For Them

All the tech I took

Now, I’m one of the biggest technology pushers out there but even I value disconnected time. Last year on a high school trip the “tech guy” took away all the technology from the kids. 10th and 11th grades…made them turn in every piece of electronics they had. They hated me for about 2 hours and then magically it didn’t matter anymore. You can read their reflections about the trip here and many of them reflect on just how connected they were and didn’t realize it and what spending a week disconnected did for them.

Disconnecting Doesn’t Always Mean No Technology

We still know what’s best for them even if they don’t think so. It’s important to disconnect and as adults I think we have an obligation to help kids understand this. Disconnecting doesn’t have to mean no technology. I love my Kindle for the simple fact all I can do is read on it. I disconnect every day when I go workout or for a run, yet I have my phone with me playing music or tracking my run via GPS. This is time disconnected yet technology still plays a supporting role. 

What other tips or advice do you have for parents who’s children are in a 1:1 program?

(Contributions to this blog post were made by my wife Daneah Galloway, a National Certified School Counselor.)