Safety is any parent’s #1 priority. So what does that mean in an increasingly digital landscape? With kids’ school and socialization added to the long list of things that happen online nowadays - and on Zoom - many families are looking for guidance and support.
Zoom for kids, and safety in particular, is a completely different ballgame than, say, safety on the playground, after all. On top of that, academic success looks totally different in this unique, often fully virtual, school year.
Kids deserve to feel nurtured and safe, and parents deserve support and resources.
Navigating Zoom for Kids
With that in mind, look no further than this handy guide to Zoom meeting (or classroom) etiquette for students, tips for success in learning online, and safety protocols every parent can use to help kids navigate online education, platforms, and tools.
ZOOM SAFETY TIPS
Is Zoom safe for kids? It can be, and it’s important to know how to make it so.
(And, I’m using “Zoom” here as the seemingly universal term for virtual learning, video conferencing, and meeting. These pointers are worth bearing in mind for any online education platform, whether your child is using Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, or some other means of communicating with peers and teachers.)
A quick word of caution before we dive in, though: there’s no denying the internet can be an unpredictable and even dangerous place for kids. These suggestions are a starting point and not a substitute for regularly checking in with your child and developing a customized plan that’s right for your family.
But since so much of daily life takes place in Zoom meetings and classrooms and other online platforms these days, we wanted to give parents a useful start and identify some key areas to watch.
Beware of “Zoom Bombing” and take steps to prevent it.
No one wants uninvited and potentially unsafe guests crashing your child’s lesson or virtual hang out. Unfortunately, there are loopholes in most video conferencing platforms that make this possible, but there are also steps you can take to prevent it!
First, make sure the host (a teacher, your child, family members etc.) require meeting passwords.
Then, you can also enable a waiting room to ensure that, even if someone suspicious tries to sign in, only expected people can actually enter the meeting.
Ensure kids are not sharing personal information anywhere.
Kids should not be sharing their passwords, addresses, phone numbers or anything else like that online. Kids might need help in identifying what is and is not ok to share, and this article is a great resource for that.
Generate random meeting ID’s & disable screen sharing/chat.
Remember the “zoom-bombers” I mentioned earlier? These bad actors can be drawn to meetings that, when “zoom-boomed,” will get a strong reaction, like K-12 school sessions. It’s therefore worthwhile to generate random meeting ID’s that will discourage unsafe visitors.
Another great safeguard against unwanted content is to disable chat and turn off screen sharing functions. If these tools are absolutely necessary, leave ‘em on! We just recommend taking some of the other precautions listed above if that’s the case.
Remind kids that the internet never forgets: what is said online can quickly spin out of control.
Just like you can’t take back something you say in person, you can never truly delete something that’s posted online. This is perhaps one area in which online communication should be even more carefully considered than speaking in person. The sooner kids practice and master this mindset, the better!
See something, say something.
Cases of cyberbullying and other problems kids encounter online are not to be underestimated. Encourage your child to speak up, and talk with them about how important it is to report unsafe behavior. These conversations can be tough, but they’re 100% worth it; here’s a guide to get started.
ZOOM ETIQUETTE FOR KIDS IN REMOTE SCHOOL
With the most important points addressed, let’s take a look at what kids need to know for stellar conduct in Zoom meetings for school and other settings.
Many of these tips may seem obvious and identical to expectations for in-person interactions. However, it can be easier said than done to translate them to Zoom. Plus, without the usual social enforcers that encourage kids to keep up good behavior, they’ll need more support and encouragement from you in these crazy times. (Read more about the benefits of encouragement.)
Here are five essential “do’s” and etiquette musts for kids on Zoom and online education.
Be prepared and on time.
Kids should keep track of what supplies they’ll need for each class and have them ready when it begins. Just like most teachers expect kids to be seated and ready to start at the bell, kids should have signed in before, not right at the start of, class. It never hurts to be ready a few minutes early if scheduling allows. It's a good lesson to learn as students progress along their video conferencing journeys.
Neutral virtual backgrounds please!
It’s nifty to look like you’re on the moon, but it can also be distracting to other students (and for you parents, coworkers may have similar reactions during work Zoom meetings). So, resist the temptation to use those creative virtual backgrounds and filters when class is in session.
Also bear in mind that the family cat's antics and other household goings on can derail learning quickly. It's best to have computer screens facing a wall or another spot with minimal movement traffic.
Many schools are doing virtual spirit days and other online social events to keep things fun; that’s the perfect time to bust out the cool backgrounds and share more about what life is like at home.
Find a quiet spot to learn.
We know this can be challenging; siblings, limited space, parents working from home—just do your best to navigate these factors.
Kids' classmates and teachers will be grateful for the (relative) peace and quiet, and your student will be better able to focus on their own learning.
Next, embrace the mute button unless participating in class. It’s the surefire way to make sure background noise doesn’t interfere with the day’s plan (or cause any accidental embarrassment).
Don’t be afraid to ask, but sometimes that’s better done privately.
It’s always better to ask and receive answers than remain in the dark, but it’s important to get them appropriately. Hand raise tools, private messages, and school email tools are all useful for this.
Be patient & respectful.
Nobody’s perfect, right? Teachers, students, and families all deserve a little extra slack these days.
If students show they’re doing their best in handling all of this, teachers will appreciate the effort and be more likely to return the favor. Plus, they'll set a good example for their peers to emulate, making the classroom (virtual) community a great place to be.
We’d love to hear your ideas and experiences with online learning! Share them in the comments below.