My younger sister cannot believe that I don’t use WhatsApp. As far as she is concerned, this makes me technologically past it. I am only five years older than her, but I don’t even know how to Snapchat. “You’re as bad as Mum,” she says.
Clearly, when it comes to technology, the knowledge gap between young and old is widening. A recent survey by John Lewis revealed that this gap is greatest among young parents and those whose children are still at primary school, with 69 per cent of parents between 25 and 34 years of age admitting that their child knows more about technology than they do. This has repercussions for online safety and how far parents can assist their children with school work.
Schools have to play a part in bridging the gap. Today’s primary school students have grown up surrounded by tablet computers and touch screens; they are more widely exposed to technology than any generation before them. As the new computing curriculum helps teachers to move with the times, it is important that schools support the parents who may be finding it hard to keep up.
Bruno Reddy, head of Maths at King Solomon Academy in London, says the best way to do that is to invite them into school for a short demonstration. His school does this regularly with parent IT classes.
“Let them get hands on with the tech,” Reddy says. “That way they get to see first-hand what their children's classroom experience encompasses and are able to ask questions in a group setting."
Reddy says schools need to advise about issues such as web safety and etiquette on social-networking sites.
"Parents need to know more about the different social-networking sites and apps their children are using. With this comes a better understanding of how to apply parental controls and greater awareness of the dangers of instant-messaging apps and how these can be used for cyberbullying," he says.
What schools need to avoid though, says Reddy, is making it seem like teaching is being replaced by computers.
“We need to remember that technology doesn't automatically make teaching better or lead to more learning. The teacher's craft is still the most important element in the classroom. Technology can make a difference in all facets of a teacher's work ? including assessment, planning and lesson delivery ? but we can only truly make the most of it when we have the full support and understanding of parents.”