“They’ve Got No Idea…”

I frequently hear statements like this from staff of schools I’m working with, as we shape up the workshops and presentation for their whānau around all things online and safe for their tamariki.

Staff believe that many of their parents are not aware, have limited awareness, or don’t really mind what their children are doing online, and it concerns them, “They just don’t know what their children are really doing online” is a common comment.  Staff hear and see aspects of their students’ online lives at school, as these seep into and can disrupt the learning and wellbeing of students on a daily basis at times.

Right now we have a number of children and young people at home learning again, as we’re in a (hopefully) brief lockdown period. For some, this will be seamless and families will be supporting their children’s learning, and will have some oversight of other online activities.

However, this is not the experience for all, for different reasons that also include inequities around digital inclusion, and demographics around the size of a household, who’s responsible, and how the fabric of their community at home is woven together, or just hanging on, or not.

When our tamariki and rangatahi are online, and learning in spaces and places at home, they’re more vulnerable to online challenges and risks. According to reports from Netsafe, and the e-Safety Commissioner in Australia in 2020, there’s been an upward trend of incidents and harm occurring during lockdowns.

And so the role of whānau is crucial to support their child’s safety, security and the social and emotional aspects of their online engagement, and at this particular time when face-to-face gatherings aren’t possible. Schools and kura also have a responsibility and an opportunity to support and partner with their communities around the safe use of digital devices, and engagement in online spaces  right now. 

So how might they partner with families to build greater awareness, deepen knowledge, and promote online safety and security in their homes?  Here’s some ideas to consider:

  • Send regular information through newsletters / comms apps used to connect to families. Find content from Netsafe, eSafety Commissioner, Commonsense Media, UK Safer Internet etc. Commit to doing this fortnightly or weekly, and keep information short and pragmatic.
  • Form a parent rep group who can be trained to offer practical workshops for whānau to learn about digital devices and safety and security tools.
  • Use conversation starters they can use to talk to their children to keep the conversation open and ongoing.
  • Invite those who are leaders in this field to speak with whānau.
  • Involve students in the korero with whānau – facilitate sessions to talk together about the positive use of digital technology for learning and living, and explore the aspects related to safety, security, and managing online challenges and risks etc.
  • Collaborate with local iwi, churches, sports clubs, libraries, community groups and work towards events or shared messaging around keeping children and young people safe, offline and online.
  • Include ‘online’ and ‘digital’ as terms when talking about or referring to bullying, social conflict, schools’ values, wellbeing needs, ways to seek help if things aren’t okay.
  • Create a portal or space on the website or LMS that’s shared with students and their families. Develop or use resources and activities for students and parents to engage with together.
  • Consider developing something like a ‘digital passport’ that focuses on fostering safety, citizenship, wellbeing, agency and rights for children in their engagement online.
  • Report back regularly to families, how the positive and safe use of digital devices and online spaces are being used for learning.
  • Promote terms such as ‘safe online’, ‘secure and private online’, ‘citizenship and values online’, ‘kindness matters’ online, ‘upstanding safely’, ‘safely negotiating …. online’ etc. 

There’s so many ways we can work with whānau, partnering in the journey as we all learn together how to support our tamariki and rangatahi in a world that is easily disrupted, re-routed, and uncertain, offline and online.

For more information or just interested in chatting further about resources, workshops, and presentations, get in touch , we’d love to work with you.