Parents of students at NSW public schools are set to receive a copy of the Department of Education and Training’s latest technology guide for parents, aimed at helping them understand their children’s use of information technology in schools and at home.
“Our students are picking up and using information technology as if it’s second nature. However, they still need to feel that they can ask their parents for advice or have a chat about things and feel that we [parents] know what they’re talking about”, said Michael Coutts-Trotter, director general of the NSW education department.
Dubbed Click, the guide provides information on social networking sites for children, cyber bullying and what to do about it, and how to best use the Internet when helping kids with assignments.
“Parents should take advantage of, and encourage the use of new technology. It’s now the way the world works, providing tremendous benefits to their children for homework, researching assignments and communicating with students, both here and in other countries”, said Coutts-Trotter.
According to Martyn Wild, a La Trobe University professor and cyber-safety expert, 57 per cent of parents surveyed say they don’t know how to advise their children about their online lives or who to make a complaint to if something goes wrong when their children use the Internet.
He believes many parents think they can’t give advice to their children about their online lives because they feel their kids are way ahead of them in their use of information technology.
“Click is about telling those parents, ‘look these are the tools your children use and they are not that hard. Get them to show you how to use them’. Kids love to tell their parents what they are doing as long as parents are a trusted partner”, said Wild.
“There has never before been an initiative to deliver information to every parent of every child in the state of NSW”, he added. Previous government initiatives have been aimed at teachers in schools or smaller groups of children. The magazine is the first initiative of its kind in Australia
A big issue for parents is how to protect their children online when they are using social networking sites.
“One of the issues with the growth of social networking and the use of social networking sites is that children are giving away far too much personal information. Research shows that it takes between three and nine minutes for somebody who is looking for a child to piece together from an open profile the necessary information to trace where they live or where they play”, said Wild. “One of the most important things parents can do is to ensure that their children have their online social networking profiles set to private.”
Wild, in his role as the Australia-Pacific director for Intuitive Media, has set up the Australian arm of an online social learning network for children aged six to 12 called SuperClubsPLUS as an alternative to sites such as Facebook and Bebo.
SuperClubsPLUS was first launched in the UK and now has more than 200,000 children registered on its site from around the world, of which 10,000 are from Australia.
Wild believes it is important to let children embrace social networking but in a safe environment such as SuperClubsPLUS. “Kids learn more from each other; they develop programming skills for example and collaborate with each other online. They don’t think they are learning as they are having fun online.”