Increasingly, laptops and smartphones are central to education. And in some ways, they’re a teacher’s dream, a tool that can instantly answer questions, point children towards educational content, and help work complex problems and concepts. But, of course, they can also be a distraction. Here’s what you need to know about “bring your own device” (BYOD) policies and your family screen time rules.
To begin with, ask your children’s school for a list of apps and websites that are approved, as well as what the school filters. This may be sent home as well with a permission slip; read over any documentation you’re provided closely. Depending on the school, kids may be allowed to access certain social media sites or casual content like celebrity news during free periods or before and after formal school hours.
Next, ask how kids access the internet in class. Most schools will have a secure WiFi signal available for students to access, but it may not extend to the entire building, or be limited to certain labs for security, so you’ll need to keep an eye on your data.
Finally, ask how devices will be used inside and outside of class. Schools range from strict “keep it in the bag” policies to a more loose approach that lets kids use certain apps on the grounds and outside of class. This is a good time to discuss your personal rules and concerns with their teachers, as well as what programs you use, to make clear that you’re monitoring and that your family knows these programs are set up. All of this will affect your home device policy, but it doesn’t have to.
Once you’ve got all the information your need, see where it overlaps, and contradicts your rules. Of course, a no-device-in-school policy will have to be set aside, but it should be made clear that this isn’t a blanket pass. Go over what rules apply in school, and why.
With both operating system controls and your parental control apps, whitelist any websites and apps your children will need, and set the school schedule so they can be used during that time.
Be judicious in what devices go to school. For example, if they’re bringing a laptop, a tablet is probably unnecessary.
You may also want to consider giving teachers access to your apps to resolve issues. Even the best tools will stumble over the occasional edge case; for example, it’s a common issue in high schools that researching topics like breast cancer can be made difficult because the filters can’t sort medical imagery from inappropriate content.
Regularly check in about how kids are using their devices in schools. Ask them what they’re looking up, how their assignments work, and what you can do to help.
BYOD policies are going to take some adjustment, on the parts of both parents and the school. We’re simply in a new world here, where the potential of devices for education and improvement have to be weighed against the possible risks. To learn more about this balance, and how parental control apps can help keep it stable, try Screen Time for free!