I think it’s fair to say that come to next Australia Day, there needs to be a special award category for parents of young children who survived home learning during the lockdowns. Let’s be honest – it’s been brutal! So many parents had to juggle their own full-time work, running a household, AND supervising a day’s worth of learning for often, multiple children! Research from Macquarie University showed that many parents spent up to 14 hours a week in their role as home learning managers and 9/10 parents reported the experience as, quite understandably, stressful! As a mum of older teens and young adults – who are usually self-sufficient – I’m in awe!
But the good news is – things are on the improve! Our vaccine rates are amongst the best in the world, so lockdowns have been lifted and, drum roll… kids are back at school! I’ve always been a big fan of trying to find the silver lining of any situation and I think there are many we can take away from our COVID experience, particularly when it comes to digital parenting. I know of so many parents who have completely rethought their approach to managing kids and technology since the pandemic hit because of their home learning experience.
So, in the spirit of sharing and caring, I thought I’d round up some of the best ‘aha’ moments from parents who were forced to become expert home learning managers over multiple lockdowns. And make sure you take notes because there are some great learnings that we can apply to our digital parenting journey.
If you have never been ‘all in’ with your kids’ use of technology for both learning and socializing, then you need to get over this ASAP. Technology is the lifeblood of your kids’ lives. It’s how they connect, nurture friendships, and organize their social lives. I also recommend parents try to see technology through the eyes of their kids NOT just through our more ‘mature’ lens. It’s the best way of truly understanding just what a huge role it plays in their day-to-day lives. And don’t forget that technology is almost always used to set up in-person catchups! So, please don’t demonize it, it will only push your kids away.
Understanding Your Child’s Online Life is a Powerful Way of Connecting
I totally appreciate that many parents didn’t choose to be home learning ‘managers’ however many have shared with me how they now feel far more involved in their child’s life because of the experience. Seeing first-hand how your child’s day works, overhearing their conversations with teachers and peers (courtesy of Zoom), and being blown away by your offspring’s tech skills has given many parents incredible insight into their child.
I know of parents who have noticed learning issues and friendship problems all as a result of their home learning manager role! There’s nothing like being able to nip something in the bud before it becomes a big issue! So, stay involved and you’ll reap the rewards!
Get Your Kids Moving – Encourage Movement and Outdoor Activities Always
Confession – I have never been one of those parents who proactively organized park visits, bushwalks, and exercise regimes for my kids. But many of the parents who managed young children through a lockdown and resorted to becoming personal trainers reported that it paid dividends. So, now lockdowns are (hopefully!) history, don’t forget about the benefits of getting your kids to move. It’s hard to be on a screen when you are walking the dog, playing a game of family cricket, or bushwalking. I know it’s time-consuming but it’s so worth it!
Take Some Time to Understand & Protect Your Kids’ Devices
As of 2 years ago, the average Aussie household had 17 internet-connected devices in tow so it’s no wonder keeping abreast of all the devices in your household feels like a full-time job! But with kids continuing to use their devices for both study and socializing, it’s essential that you give each device a ‘once over’ to minimize risks and prevent issues arising down the track.
Ensuring all their software is up to date is a great place to start. Also check that the default password has been changed and that there is some top-shelf security software installed to protect the device and, most importantly, its user! And while you are there, why not also ensure that each of their online accounts has its own distinct password? If you think they could manage a password manager, then it might be time to introduce them to one? Check out McAfee’s True Key – I couldn’t manage without it!
I think you’d be hard-pressed to find many parents keen to return to home learning. In fact, I think there may even be a revolt if we had to go back! But, knowing we have picked up some ‘nuggets of gold’ along the way makes it a little feel a little better! So, please embrace technology – it’s a fantastic way of connecting with your kids. But of course, keep your family’s usage in check and minimize the risks by giving each device a once-over.
Happy Digital Parenting!