What Parents Should Know While Using Education Technology

Do you make extensive use of education technology to help your child? Being aware of its perils and pitfalls will help you keep your child safe online.

By Dr Debarati Halder

What Parents Should Know While Using Education Technology

We will be ushering in a new academic year soon. Almost all schools have rolled out their admission/ promotion/transfer process and students are getting ready to go into a new class or school. I have a few friends and colleagues whose young children are gearing up to experience a new school from Pre-KG or from Class 1; a few are waiting for their young ones to join higher classes and some are looking for a new environment as they feel it would be better to introduce the child to a new school for higher classes.

A change in study patterns

Over the years, the method of studying has changed. Students and parents have become more dependent on education technology rather than on the textbooks and reference books prescribed by the Boards and the schools. Education technology is a thriving stream of automated learning systems which helps to promote learning mechanisms for young as well as adult students. Online content is created for easy learning and understanding of subjects and they are uploaded on different websites from where parents and students can access them.

A boon for parents, teachers and students

In a way, this technology helps parents and teachers to help students learn quickly and easily. The content creators and producers may use innovative teaching and learning mechanisms to make learning joyful and engaging for young students. The content may provide easy experimental mechanisms which are created with the help of different software using artificial intelligence. A young student who may not have the opportunity to witness it in real life may get to see, with a click of the mouse, the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. Similarly, if a student is poor in mathematics, he can access online content which may not only make him understand how to solve the problem easily, but may also provide him with options for learning – something more than textbook-prescribed maths problems.

Other pluses of education technology

Education technology also helps students to develop language skills by explaining the meaning of particular sentences in a pictorial mode, teaching them how to pronounce the words and showing them how to use such language appropriately. Education technology is a boon for parents living in remote areas who may be unable to find a good tutor for their children or for those whose children may need extra help with learning. Several schools are also prescribing education technology for easy learning by providing links to websites which the students can access either from home or from the school itself. Students are also asked to prepare projects on the basis of such content and these may prove very helpful, especially when the student wants to prepare for national and international level competitions. Several schools and education technology companies also encourage the uploading of the ‘best’ content prepared by students who may have won competitions. It is indeed a matter of pride for parents to see their children’s write-ups, reviews, etc., which may have been uploaded by schools or education technology companies as reading material.

And now, the downside...

However, education technology is by no means risk free. Like any other digital technology platform or content, educational content is also open to the risk of unauthorised access by third parties, of the content being modified or of data being leaked.

Precautions to be taken

Hence, it is better if you and your child follow certain safeguards while accessing any educational content online:

  1. Always look for HTTPS in the address of a website before clicking on it. ‘S’ stands for ‘secure’ site. As you and your child may access these sites often, you should make sure that you are accessing secure sites and not malicious ones.
  2. Several education technology sites may ask for your phone number or email id or other personal details or those of your child so that the education technology companies can use the information for future marketing. It is better not to reveal your phone numbers and email ids unless these are trusted sites and are reputed. One can never tell whether personal details like phone numbers or email ids will land up on unwanted platforms.
  3. I would suggest that you don’t upload either your photograph or that of your child on such sites even if these sites have been prescribed by the schools. At a recent seminar, we had a long discussion on how children are being trafficked through online platforms and how the images of children are travelling from one port to another for malicious purposes. It is, therefore, always better to protect digital identity, especially images.
  4. As a parent, you need to be extra careful about giving digital devices to your child, especially your pre-teen who may not be aware of digital ethics while using education technologies. Content showcasing biology may pull up unwanted adult sites, including certain YouTube videos which are meant completely for adult viewing.
  5. You must also be aware that email ids may be traced out from such content (in case such websites need user ids and passwords for opening the content and these may be generated through email ids) for phishing or lottery scam or job scam purposes which may specifically target teens who are on the verge of finishing school.

Education technology is growing in India and it is here to stay – with both its positive and negative aspects. So make sure you are aware of its negative aspects while being ready to enjoy its positive impact.

Dr Debarati Halder is the Honorary Managing Director of the Centre for Cyber Victim Counselling (www.cybervictims.org). She is also working as Professor & Head of the Department of Research, Unitedworld School of Law, Karnavati University, Gandhinagar, Gujarat. She can be reached at ccvcindia@gmail.com

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