KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) – A metro tech expert is offer advice for parents after a handful of Kansas City area school districts had a tough first day back when online learning platforms went down.
More districts are testing out their online lessons for the first time Wednesday, and many families are working with technology that is either new or loaned.
Blue Valley is one of the local districts starting up Wednesday, with elementary students starting the year under a hybrid model and middle and high school students completely online.
Districts like Blue Valley have IT departments to call if there are issues with the device or accessing the learning sites though some first-time online learners still have concerns about privacy issues, cybersecurity and proper internet usage.
Technology expert Burton Kelso says there will be issues out of the control of families working with virtual teaching tech, but there are some things parents can do to prepare, like check the internet speed.
“It definitely will slow it down if you have multiple kids on same network as you,” Kelso explained. “(It’s) important you call your provider and boost internet speeds to ensure you can work from home and kids can do work without interruption.”
Kelso also said it’s a good idea for parents to find a tech-savvy friend if they have questions and the district help line is backed up.
Students and faculty in Lee’s Summit, Raytown and Olathe saw challenges when returning to classes on Tuesday, with servers being pushed past capacity and service providers having outages.
The districts were able to get running in a few hours, but it’s an issue that families in the Blue Valley district would like to avoid for the first day.
In addition to the system issues on the school’s end, Kelso advises that parents should take precautions to keep their students safe at home.
He suggests that parents familiarize themself with the parental controls and privacy setting on new or loaned school materials and says that now is a good time to have a basic conversation about cybersecurity with kids.
Kelso also noted that for the older students, it’s possible to maintain control even if the student is more tech-savvy than the parent.
“Have a tighter rein on that device. If it is a smartphone or a tablet, go ahead and take that device away if they aren’t using it so they don’t have time to sit and stew and get around parental controls,” he said. “If you need help, reach out to a tech-savvy buddy to help you counteract what your tech-savvy teen is doing.”
While parents may think of downloading antivirus software to look out for the health of their tech, Kelso believes they should also be considering how screen time is affecting the mental health of their students.
“You need to set limits with kids as well,” he told KCTV5 News. “It is good to have a good structured time schedule, as if they were going to real life school, so it won’t be an online tech overload when they use their devices when at home.”
Along with monitoring screen time, Kelso thinks parents should be mindful of the apps students download to devices. In addition to helping to keep the devices cyber-secure, this act can help keep students in compliance with their schools’ privacy and cyberbullying policies.
It is also worth remembering that things said in an online classroom, while technically off-campus, may fall under the school’s online harassment policy. Parents may want to consider monitoring chats and messages coming into students, not only to address any bullying issues but also to fight “dis-information” targeting teens.
“So, there are a lot of COVID scams that come through, lots of scams that are targeted towards kids,” Kelso warned. “One wrong click can expose your identity to the world, so make sure to educate kids as far as safe things to do online.”