Workshop for Parents

by Jean Tower

I ‘ve been thinking about the need to educate our parents about topics like social networking, safety for kids on the Internet, cyberbullying, supervising your kids’ Internet use, and (too many) other topics, depending on my frame of mind and the day of the week. As I ruminated on what to include, how to get something started in my district and who to ask to help organize I have also been thinking about whether it should be a workshop format (more "show" and "do") or an informational event (more "tell").

Here are some of the ideas I have so far.

  • Focus on what is good about web 2.0 tools and demonstrate how they can be used advantageously in education.
  • Call it "The Internet in the 21st Century: Skills, Safety, and Security" listing skills first to convey importance.
  • Include in the planning: students, teachers, members of the technology department, administrators, student safety committee, librarians. Anyone I missed?
  • Partner with parent groups and local law enforcement. Anyone else?
  • Have several people present briefly on a topic and then have a roundtable discussion with Q and A.
  • Or, hold it in a computer lab as a hands-on workshop with several people presenting, each with a different topic.

I’ve been asking fellow tech directors how they have been organizing similar events and what they covered and how. All have been informational (presentation format) and many have brought in speakers from the District Attorney’s office. I know the DAs have good information, but it sounded more "scary" and less like "here’s how to understand and manage this" with your kids. Now I am feeling like it is time to bring this to others in my district and gather more input, settle on a format, and start organizing.

Today I read a post by Jeff Utecht (The Thinking Stick ) in which he described a social networking workshop for parents. His schedule was this:
"In the 3 hours we covered the following:

  • 20 minutes on introductions and Inside ISB our new educational portal
  • 20 minutes on PantherNet (Moodle) our walled garden for learning
  • 20 minute presentation on why students are so connected (this year’s seniors were born the same year the Internet was invented…they will never know a time without the Internet)
  • 20 minutes on using YouTube as a life lone learning tool (parents searched for ‘how to’ videos on things they were interested in)
  • 20 minutes on Internet Safety
  • 20 minutes on web based library resources
  • 20 minutes on Facebook
  • 20 minutes on Google Search Skills
  • 20 minutes on breaks, Q&A"

(excerpt from The Thinking Stick post )

Sounds like a nice approach and covers a lot, but is a three-hour workshop too ambitious?  Would parents attend? Should we be trying to run several one-hour workshops? There are so many possibilities.

Since I still feel a bit all over the place in my thinking on it, I decided to post this "thinking out loud" to my blog and ask for help.

I encourage you to share your advice, stories, experience, and thoughts on the topic.
I’m sure it will help many others, as well.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

A. Mercer February 22, 2009 at 3:46 pm

With law-enforcement, be very careful who you invite, and what their agenda is. What I mean is this, many prosecutors are still wed to the idea of adult predators as the problem on the Internet, and are oblivious to cyber-bullying, since that is most of what they see. The police may be more aware of bullying, since some of these cases are referred to them (which usually don’t go up to the prosecutor, hence their ignorance). I would solicit their views, and make sure they match or are close to what social science tells us is the danger, kids picking on other kids, and that the kids who are exploited, are at risk (just like in real life).

You probably want to have suggestions for elementary appropriate social networks (imbee?) to have parents offer to kids so they don’t go to myspace at 9 years old. Kids with older siblings are the most likely to do this. Give them suggestions for keeping control over their tweens accounts. Maybe myspace makes sense for their family situation (parent, family in another state who all use it), just have parents supply the admin email, so they can “see” the account activity and monitor. Have them have a plan for how they will exit out of monitoring as their child gets older because while monitoring a 9 or 10 year olds online activity makes sense, this is not appropriate for an 16 year old.

Blair Peterson February 22, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Here is the link to the wiki that our IT Facilitator created for internet safety.

Theresa Jay February 22, 2009 at 7:27 pm

Hi Jean
I am running parent workshops over the next three weeks.
First I surveyed the parents to see what workshops they would be interested in.
I then designed a program of 13 different workshops. we are running the workshops more than once because of the survey response. Each workshop is an hour & half. ( they meet at night. both attendees & presentors work during the day) They will meet in the computer labs and be a hands on experience – constructivist learning . I have teachers & myself leading the workshops. I did online registration and did not charge. For full program description go to

hope this helps and good luck with your program


Christine Margulies February 22, 2009 at 7:49 pm

If you choose to do this now, you should use the opportunity to incorporate the information required under the Broadband Data Improvement Act signed in October 2008. This education is now required as part of CIPA.

My Police Dept. works with me to present Internet Safety nights in the schools. I explain my intro to internet safety session with all 4th graders who are accessing the internet on school grounds under the technology curriculum for the first time, guidelines for filtering at the elementary and secondary levels, involvement in harassment cases involving use of technology (cyberbullying and cell phones), etc.

Largest issue is that many parents use technology in their jobs and feel we are holding their children back by not opening everything up. It is a great opportunity to explain the federal, state and general legal obligations we face in allowing internet access on school grounds.
Good luck.

Susan Geiger February 23, 2009 at 11:16 am

I work in a 1 to 1 laptop high school and when I do a Digital Parenting workshop for 9th grade parents I try to emphasize that digital parenting is the same as regular parenting. Parents don’t need any technical skills to set limits about online behavior. It is important to communicate why the rules are important. It’s also important that they are mutually negotiated. Some students have problems managing time with such a lovely distraction available. There is a time to turn off the laptop and do math homework or get some sleep.
We also encourage parents to actively inquire about what neat things their kids are doing online and listen to the responses. Keeping kids safe often comes down to keeping lines of communication open. You might want to set aside a bit of time for parents to share successful strategies in small groups.

Jeff Utecht February 26, 2009 at 6:27 am

I think you have to know your community. Our parent community asked us for the half day workshop so that’s what we did. Who showed up? Non-working parents.

1 hour sessions wouldn’t be bad as long as each one had a specific purpose.

What I have found, and what I hear from parents again and again is that they want to learn how to do things not be told what their kids are doing….they know what they’re kids are doing….they’re at home with them every night.

We also didn’t want to scare parents about Facebook instead we talked about all the positive things it allows their kids to do. How Facebook is the new ‘hang out’ and telephone of our era. Sure we touched on the negative parts, and made sure they understood they needed to know about it. We ended with telling them to sit down with their son/daughter and have them walk you through Facebook. If they won’t let you see it…you have an issue. Because Facebook is not a private place.

My suggestion would be make it hands on, parents want to learn about this stuff and I think if you promote it as a hands-on get messy with the tools your kids use kind of session you’ll have success.

One the best 20 minutes that parents loved was the tips to search Google. They all know Google and they all help their children with homework, so by showing them tricks to narrow down searches they felt as they finally knew something their kids didn’t…and that was rewarding to them.

Hope this helps!

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