“While parents say cyberspace could pose dangers to their children, many are not keen to find out more by attending cyber-wellness talks in schools. Parents interviewed by The Straits Times claimed these talks do not serve much purpose, as they already know the basics and restrict their children’s access to computers and mobile devices” (Parents Not Keen On Cyber-Wellness Talks, Mr. Derrick Ho).
The news report “Parents Not Keen On Cyber-Wellness Talks” (October 27, 2012) by Mr. Derrick Ho: the sentiments expressed by the interviewed parents are not surprising. While they are cognisant of the dangers of social media and the Internet, it is likely that school sessions are treated with disdain because they are often unnecessarily pedantic, repetitive, or monotonous. More significantly, if the cyber-wellness talks are perceived to be mere platforms for the regurgitation of information, parents would not be interested.
Moreover, parents and students can readily access these forms of information online. Websites provide wonderful expositions on how parents and their children can develop healthy relationships for the purposes of open communication. More often than not, cyber-wellness presentations in schools place excessive emphasis on the “dangers” and negatives of the Internet, painting it as a place of traps and pitfalls rather than as a channel of opportunities. The traditional reliance upon “warnings” is simply not feasible.
Raising Collaboration and Interactivity
Instead of the organisation of convenient talks or workshops, where the exchange of views is chronically one-directional, schools could arrange for interactive sessions – along the lines of a World Café format – for participating parents to share their experiences in a collaborative manner. Such an initiative can be structured in such a way that facilitators are merely needed to ensure the smooth functioning of the entire event. There are two reasons for this proposal: first, one needs to recognise that with the plethora of problems online, there is no single silver bullet; second, and correspondingly, it is crucial for parents to amass a collection of “solutions” for their consideration should there be issues in the future.
More often than not, individuals are more convinced – and engaged – when they hear about real-life situations, and how cyber-wellness difficulties were dealt with. Listening to successes and failures would definitely attract more parents to participate. As the sessions grow with exposure, it could even be expanded to students, or even collective slots where parents and students come together to provide discourse on the aforementioned.
Finally, on the news report per se, I thought more information could be provided on the interviews that were conducted by the journalist. It would have been great to know the number of parents The Straits Times spoke to, the assortment of reasons why some of them were not convinced or enthused by the importance of cyber-wellness, and whether various participants had any criticisms or comments gathered from past sessions. This feedback would have been extremely useful for bureaucrats and educators to think through present shortcomings at length, and to tailor them to the needs of parents and students.
A version of this article was published in The Straits Times.