The global pandemic has emphasized how important our digital world is to modern life as we pivoted out of necessity to remote working, at-home schooling and online shopping. Many millions of us got our first experiences of certain digital platforms and applications that have now become part of day-to-day life. Trends such as online education have been greatly accelerated as many families experienced the benefits of remote learning and noted how successfully their children and teens adapted to learning through well-conceived digital platforms.
This has opened up the opportunities to think about schooling and tertiary studies differently and to take advantage of the greater flexibility and vast choice of high-quality educational programmes that can be accessed online. As a result, many thousands of South African families have not returned to brick and mortar schools and colleges. New and better online schools have emerged, and many tertiary institutions have invested in enhancing and expanding their online campuses.
If there’s one question that concerns parents more than any other about online education, it’s about the online safety of their children. While we are adept at identifying threats in the physical world and helping our children reduce those risks, online dangers can be more opaque to parents, and they may worry that more time online might lead to increased vulnerability. However, CEO and Principal of Koa Academy, Mark Anderson points out that a high-engagement online education platform is specifically designed with safe online spaces which enhance your child’s digital citizenship equipping them to navigate the internet confidently, responsibly and wisely. This development of digital citizenship is increasingly regarded as a key 21st Century skill for the 4iR world.
Parents who want to deepen their understanding of how to keep their kids safe online can join the free one-hour Koa Academy webinar on Tuesday, 2 November from 18h00. The panel is hosted by Mark Anderson and also features Rachelle Best, founder of FYI play it safe, a non-intrusive, consensual monitoring app that helps parents by adding a layer of security to their child’s online interactions. They are joined by ICT law specialist, attorney Arinda Truter, an associate at law firm, Dingley Marshall Lewin Inc. In addition to the presentations there will be a Q&A session enabling parents to present their burning questions to the experts.
Across the board, the presenters agree that parent-child communication based on trust is at heart of keeping children safe online. Just as the issue of safety and awareness of threats in the physical world is an ongoing conversation in families, this needs to happen too in regard to our children’s online interactions.
Best says, “Parents need so see online safety as a holistic concept. Setting up screentime and the relevant age and content restrictions on applications are not enough. Parents need to understand threats and risks in a world where new apps are made available every day, and tech is ever-changing. So, there’s a need for parents to be aware and knowledgeable so that they make good decisions when it comes to keeping their children safe online. At FYI play it safe, we also believe that keeping your children safer online starts with the relationship with your child. We empower parents with the right level of information to know when their children may need their help. This creates an opportunity to open up conversations with the right information and at exactly the right time.”
Attorney, Arinda Truter emphasises that children attending online schools do not face different risks than any other child making use of the internet and engaging with others over social media. She says, “It’s important for all parents to be aware of the risks presented by online gaming, apps and social media. It is just part of the modern parenting experience to have knowledge of issues such as cyberbullying, hate speech and sexting, to be aware of privacy concerns and digital footprint, and to understand the law when it comes to the chain of online publishing.”
Anderson also points out that positive experiences offered by online schooling give your child the opportunity to build their skills as a literate, responsible digital citizen. He says, “Koa has thoughtfully designed the online school experience to not only maximise safety but leverage the advantages of being online. The high engagement of our small Pods with a maximum of eight learners and their teacher gives the kids the perfect environment for healthy relationship-building and online social connection. There is high accountability where people can be themselves and quickly get to know others well. The teacher is also very much in touch with each individual in the Pod. Parents are encouraged to get to know their child’s teacher and school leadership. We like to keep the channels of communication wide open so that everyone is in the loop. Live Dashboards show academic progress which keeps the kids accountable to their daily work rhythms and targets, ensuring that they are keeping busy during their school time. Our SACE- registered teachers undergo regular training and have significant experience in the online space, which is an asset both to the kids and their parents. Koa has a strong focus on teaching digital literacy which is fed into all of our academic courses, Pod Connect sessions and even online socials. We intentionally teach online socio-emotional skills as well as practical tools for handling potentially unwanted online experiences or content.”
Parents who want to learn more about online safety for families, and how to support their children as they gain vital digital literacy and citizenship skills can join the free Koa Academy webinar:
Date: Tuesday 2 November
Host: Koa Academy
Panelists from Koa Academy, FYI Play It Safe, Dingley Marshall Lewin Inc
To book your spot for this webinar, register here.