The Parent-Teacher Partnership: Supporting Safe Tech Usage at Home and in the Classroom

May 13, 2024

In my experience as a former educator, many parents believe that establishing rules for safe technology practices with their children is extremely important; these rules encourage our kids to have positive experiences while engaging with the digital world. However, what happens each day when children leave home to go to school? Do these same practices carry over into the classroom or are they left at the door? 

Having spent several years as a high school math teacher, I witnessed the profound impact that technology has on students' learning experiences and their interactions with the online space. From smartphones to laptops, technology has become an integral and inseparable part of our children's daily routines, shaping their interactions, education, and leisure activities in profound ways. We as teachers have a responsibility not only to impart academic knowledge but also to guide children in navigating the digital landscape safely. To ensure these rules and best practices have continuity, parents must collaborate with educators to connect the technology used by children at home to the technology used in the classroom. This collaboration between parents and teachers is essential for fostering a safer and more productive online experience for our kids, ultimately equipping them with the skills they need to thrive in today's digital age.

So, how can parents start this partnership? By talking! Through active communication parents can discuss rules, current tech, resources, as well as concerns with educators to ensure alignment between both parties, enabling them to jointly steer children towards safer online practices. Here are some ways parents and teachers can partner to help kids have a safer online experience:

  • Establish rules. One of the most important ways a parent can communicate with their child’s teacher is by discussing rules around technology. Parents must understand what tech usage guidelines are implemented in the classroom to create consistency throughout a child’s digital experience each day. Parents can do this by attending parent-teacher conferences, reading school-issued newsletters, as well as directly contacting teachers to learn more. In my classroom, for example, the use of phones was strictly prohibited as this served as a major distraction for children during lessons. Therefore, when a parent establishes rules with children around their devices (for example, refraining from use during dinner or after 8 pm on weekdays), they must be sure to discuss and reinforce classroom phone expectations as well. In doing this, parents and teachers create a unified front in guiding children toward safer and more constructive interactions with digital devices.
  • Use (and embrace!) EdTech  Parents also need to understand the technology that is being used in the classroom. According to the Institute of Education Sciences, over 90% of schools are providing digital devices for children to utilize while learning, and a majority of this is done through 1:1 laptop programs. Teachers are incorporating devices into their classrooms through the use of EdTech; websites, applications, and other learning resources that enhance educational experiences. Quizlet, Khan Academy, Google Classroom, and PowerSchool, for example, represent popular EdTech software used by many school systems. For this reason, parents must communicate with teachers to understand what applications are being used, how these resources should be applied appropriately, as well as how they could be potentially misused by children. This not only gives parents better insight to promote safer digital experiences, but also presents an opportunity for parents to become more involved in the topics their children are currently learning and take on a more active role in their child’s education at large. 
  • Resource sharing. Resource sharing is another great way parents can maintain open communication with teachers. Since technology continues to evolve and change with each day, sharing resources allows for both parties to exchange ideas and keep each other informed on best practices to ensure children remain safe yet innovative in their technology usage. As a starting point, FOSI’s Media Literacy Flashcards are a great resource for parents to share with educators to begin creating a shared language for children around the online space. These flashcards provide a simple definition and conversation starter question to help children improve their digital literacy. Any resource parents find valuable can be quickly shared with teachers via email and will serve as an opportunity for correspondence and future collaboration.
  • Voicing concerns. Voicing concerns about children’s online safety with teachers is a great way for parents to promote open communication. Younger generations tend to be more technologically savvy, and so children often encounter and experience the negative impacts of new technology before adequate rules can be established. For this reason, when both adult parties - parent and teacher - voice potential concerns, dangerous online activity and misuse of technology on behalf of children can be more easily identified. For example, when the generative AI software ChatGPT was first released, some students in my classroom were misusing its features to plagiarize content for assignments, essays, or other academic tasks. In speaking with parents, I was able to better educate them on this resource to curb misuse and create a shared understanding of expectations. Addressing tech concerns early like this can prevent issues from escalating; both parties can take active roles to minimize safety concerns for children in the digital space as well as work together to establish best practices for the future. 

When parents and teachers foster this partnership, an array of benefits for children both in and outside of school are promoted. In educational settings, kids have higher levels of achievement, reduced disciplinary issues, and improved student-teacher relationships. At home, children demonstrate improved digital citizenry and knowledge of safe online practices due to consistency in expectations for rules governing technology use. Through active communication and mutual support, parents and teachers can navigate the complexities of the digital world together, ultimately empowering children to thrive safely and responsibly online and offline!

Written by

Kaylin Peete

Kaylin Peete is the Public Affairs Coordinator for the Family Online Safety Institute. Her role involves monitoring and analyzing  trends in online safety legislation, researching and reporting on safety topics, and supporting FOSI events and programs.

Prior to joining FOSI, she spent several years teaching in Washington, D.C. Public Schools, enhancing the achievements of marginalized students via the Teach for America nonprofit organization. Additionally, Kaylin holds a B.A. in Foreign Affairs with a Minor in French from the University of Virginia as well as a Master’s in Education Policy from Johns Hopkins University.