All schools include a policy on technology in their student handbooks. There are a number of factors that limit their effectiveness, including:
The rapid pace of advance of tech habits and devices that quickly render past policies obsolete;
The lack of ability of schools to realistically enforce practices of students outside of school hours;
The need for active parent involvement in ensuring that guidelines are adhered to;
The fact that policies are not effective in “turning back the clock” and must take into account current student habits that will be difficult to break
The fact that student desires caused by peer pressure will very often be a stronger force in parents’ decision making than is school policy
These are general concepts that may be useful to schools when formulating technology guidelines for their students.
1) Guidelines should be current and use up-to-date examples and language. They should be updated annually, and occasionally mid-year if new trends develop. Schools should quickly act to formulate policy or at least increase awareness if a new issue develops mid-year.
2) Guidelines should be made only after accurately ascertaining the current tech habits of the parent body; and should not simply reflect the desires or wishes of the hanhala. Ideally, guidelines should be made together with several influential parents who are representative of a cross section of the parent body.
3) Guidelines should be kept as simple and unequivocal as possible - with concrete examples of current devices/apps/phones in each category. Students and parents are quick to exploit any loophole or vagueness in language of policies.
4) Guidelines should clearly differentiate between “mandatory” and “recommended” practices. “Mandatory” rules must be enforceable and represent the absolute minimum standard that the school will tolerate. “Recommended” guidelines representand convey the overall attitude and vision of the school.
5) Guidelines for use of phones during school hours are certainly enforceable, and must be enforced. Guidelines for use of phones or tech outside school are rarely enforceable- but should be worded in a way that encourages parent cooperation.
6)Guidelines should be publicized in a dedicated letter and email- not just as part of a student handbook or registration packet. Ideally, there should be a public forum at which parents can ask questions to clarify the details of the guidelines and gain understanding of the rationale behind them.
7) In general, mandating that parents sign a letter attesting to their adherence to the guidelines does not increase compliance for many reasons (including self-justifications for signing ingenuously, and many new phones, devices that are purchased throughout the year after the time of signing)
8) The chance of successful implementation of guidelines in elementary school is greatly enhanced when parents join in a MUST program on a class by class basis. See the MUST website (www.mothersunite4kids.org) for advice on starting such an initiative. (For this to be truly effective, the hanhala must remain behind the scenes)
In high school, the success of guidelines is enhanced when the school engages the students themselves on an individual grade by grade basis.
9) Ideally, the school should assign an in-house “digital advisor” (a tech savvy member of the hanhala) to whom parents can address practical questions.