Back to School Checklist for Families

Dr. Elizabeth Milovidov
September 8, 2021

Do you remember when you were a kid getting ready for the new school year?  Perhaps you went shopping with your parents to find that perfect outfit for the first day.  Or maybe you tested out your new locker combination a few times?

Today’s technological and academic landscape is a bit different from when you were a student, but much the same. Meaning, that a good back-to-school checklist can relieve some of the pressure and allow our families to head to school with confidence. Here at FOSI, we have created a digital family wellness checklist to help your family - whether this school year is virtual, in-person, or a mix of both.

Screen Management

  • Balance online activities with offline and outdoor options whenever possible
  • Research “parental controls” or “parental guide” for your child’s favorite websites, devices, or platforms, and consider using settings that work for your family
  • The classroom and other in-person settings can offer a break from screens AND promote social relationships and connections
  • Try to stick to one screen at a time, and use a designated screen for a designated activity, i.e., a phone to Facetime grandma, the tablet to play video games,  a computer for schoolwork

Privacy Settings

  • Check out the Safety centers for the apps, websites, and gaming platforms that your family uses
  • Dive into the privacy settings and learn more about your child’s data and how it will be used
  • Try a few simple suggestions: turn off geolocalization and facial recognition, turn on two-factor authentication and limit data collection when possible
  • Remind your children and family members that the best way to keep information private is to not share it online in the first place

Skills Management

  • Consider enrolling your student in a free online typing course to practice crucial computer skills
  • If your child needs a refresher or booster course on anything related to educational tech, check with their school and other parents for additional resources that are available to students 

Security Settings

  • Keep the software updated on all your devices and platforms. Turn on automatic security updates.
  • After you update, check your privacy settings as they may have been reset to default mode. Conduct regular privacy checkups between software updates.
  • If your school is offering online lessons, check the security settings for the online platform; read any documentation, and don’t hesitate to send questions to your district technology administrator or your child’s teacher
  • Check with the school to understand their technology policy, classroom guidelines, and security measures

Mental Health

  • Recognize the potential strain of being online for long amounts of time
  • Monitor your children’s moods and temperament before, during, and after screen activities
  • If something feels different or a bit off, don’t overlook it; talk with your children about how they are feeling and seek professional support if needed.
  • Manage information overload by practicing critical thinking and frequent periods of  disconnecting

Productivity

  • Research time management strategies like the  “pomodoro method” to determine whether tips like these will help your child this academic year
  • Use an egg timer, sand timer, or online app to help boost productivity by working in spurts and focusing on the task at hand
  • With effective time management skills, your child can experience less worry and anxiety about assignments and can experience better academic performance
  • Help your child prepare in advance for the next school day and the next class assignment

Academic Success

  • Remind your children about the learning process and emphasize that knowing the material is more important than memorization
  • Try to keep your children motivated and focused on short term projects and assignments, even when we aren’t sure how the school year will go
  • Once everyone has settled in, schedule a check-in with the teacher to find out how you can better support your child
  • Celebrate offline and online learning strategies. Success comes in many different ways.

Written by

Dr. Elizabeth Milovidov

Dr. Elizabeth Milovidov is a lawyer from California, a law professor in Paris, France and a Digital Safety Consultant in Europe. Using her European/American focus on Internet, technology and social media issues, she researches solutions to empower parents to guide their children in the digital age.  As Project Consultant, she will bring her experience in digital parenting, wellbeing and safety to FOSI's Good Digital Parenting.

She is the founder of DigitalParentingCoach.com, a website and community with resources and strategies for parents. Currently, she also provides support as an independent consultant for the Council of Europe (Children’s Rights and Education departments), Microsoft (Digital Safety) and e-Enfance (Child online protection). She is an international speaker on digital parenting and safety and her work has been featured in BBC, France 24, WSJ, Internet Matters and other media outlets and organizations focused on child online safety and digital parenting.