Parents and the home environment they create are the single most important factor in shaping their children’s well-being, achievements and prospects.
Alan Johnson Education Secretary 2007
Many parents are clueless when it comes to their children’s use of the internet and mobile phones. They recognise the benefits (including the babysitting function) yet are anxious about the risks of their children accessing content which is largely un-moderated or classified.
In my work with parents over many years I have noted that most parents need a combination of help in 3 key things:
- Help in understanding the appeal of the new web2 technology and how children’s use of the internet is different from their own use.
- Help in understanding the positive benefits of the new technology, its relevancy for the knowledge economy and the skills that young people can gain from using new tools and services
- Help in recognising the range of risks and how parents can be more effective at protecting, supporting, educating and learning from children in their use of technology.
All of this takes time - as Douglas Adams puts it brilliantly:
I suppose earlier generations had to sit through all this huffing and puffing with the invention of television, the phone, cinema, radio, the car, the bicycle, printing, the wheel and so on, but you would think we would learn the way these things work, which is this:
- 1) Everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;
- 2) Anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;
- 3) Anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really."
From Douglas Adams
It does turn out to be “alright really” and although it is possible to find evidence to support a range of opinions about the damage to children of computers, video games, and the media in general, most children’s experiences online are incredibly fun, creative and educationally and socially invaluable.
That all said, with three children of my own, I understand the enormous pressures on parents and carers and am committed to working with others to find practical ways of helping parents with digital parenting.
I can offer the following services:
- Training sessions for parents either at schools, libraries or other locations.
- Responding to questions that parents might have and linking them up with professionals in other organizations who can provide specialist advice.
- Running focus groups or research clusters with parents
- Producing education resources – leaflets, films, cd roms, websites for parents to help them better understand and use new technology.
- Working with organizations to ensure that the voice of parents is properly heard and that parents are consulted in the development of new online services and resources for their children.
EXAMPLES OF WORK
I raised the funding and led a team of designers in producing this interactive CD rom education resource for parents. The UK government commissioned over 1 million copies which schools ordered for their parents with print runs and duplications overseas over 1.5 million copies have now been ordered. The resource won a number of important awards and the summary content was translated into 8 languages including Arabic, Bengali, Mandarin, Urdu, Polish, Welsh and British Sign language.
Over the last 10 years I have led on running parental workshops and parent’s evenings to teach them about how young people are using the internet and help them know how best to support children.
Working with Stephen was straightforward and a pleasure from the first e mail to saying goodbye at the end of an inspiring day working with children, staff and parents. His particular gift lies in transforming parents fears into knowledge and practical ideas for making the best use of this technological world we are raising our children in. Focusing on the parenting aspects of relationship building, trust and respect, rather than merely giving us all a lecture about what to do if you suspect your child is looking at dodgy websites was wonderfully empowering for the parents. I would recommend Stephen as a speaker and very much hope to work with him again."
Judy Reith Parent Coach, director of Parenting People