I am a huge fan of WhatsApp and I know the benefits it can have for parents in schools when used properly. After being on WhatsApp chat groups for my daughters’ classes for two years and being frustrated I decided to make a list of what parents should know before they use WhatsApp for communication.
1. Never chat while driving. Every day on the way in and out of the school parking lot, I see people using their phone for texting. Remember your kids will do as you do not as you say. Texting while driving is dangerous, just don’t do it.
2.Think before you type. This may seem to be the most obvious but I can not tell you the number, probably hundreds, of messages that I receive weekly from the parent chat groups that are just a thumbs up, yes, or an emoticon of some sorts. If you really do not need to answer, don’t clutter the chat with images and replies. Reading through twenty of these unnecessary messages defeats the real reason of the chat, quick communication.
3. Don’t say anything about anyone’s child that you would not want them saying about yours. There was a head lice outbreak in my daughters’ school this year. Before the kids could get off the bus with the letter explaining precautionary measures, the chat group was on fire with parents talking about the disgusting problem. Some of those parents may not have even known that their kids were the ones with the “disgusting problem,” because the school nurse discovered it during the school day.
4. Don’t bash the teacher. If you have a problem with the teacher, do not constantly complain or question their policies on the classroom chat group. If you talk directly to the teacher you will have a much better chance of getting the support your child needs.
5. Homework is for kids, not parents. It’s fine to ask a question once in awhile but there were days that I felt like the other parents and I were in the class, not our kids. If your school has a learning management system such as Moodle, use it. Find out where homework is posted and teach your kids to check their own homework. Learning to be responsible is one of the main purposes of homework.
6. Reply to only the necessary person. If an invitation is sent via WhatsApp for a child’s birthday party, you should only reply to the parent making the invitation, not the whole group. The rest of the parents do not need to know if you child can go or not, again this defeats the purpose of using the chat for quick communication.
7. Do not gossip. I once heard a mom say, “I hope I never lose my phone at school, I would lose all of my friends.” She was referring to all of the gossip on her chats regarding other parents, the cute new male teacher etcetera. Set a good example for your kids, do not gossip.
8. Pay attention to the time when sending a chat. Be respectful of when others may be sleeping. Do not send messages in the middle of the night or very early morning. There is a setting you can adjust on your phone so you do not receive messages at inconvenient hours.
9. Stop texting during school performances. During the last few weeks of school I was lucky to attend several music performances and award ceremonies at my kids’ school. The teachers and administrators work hard to make these experiences a valuable use of time to showcase and honor your kids. Show respect for your kids by really being present.
10. If you happen to be at school during an emergency use the chat to get the message out quickly. We had an earthquake this year and the parents who were on campus used WhatsApp to send a quick message to other parents letting them know that everything was fine at the school. This message came much faster than the official school communication and is a perfect example of a positive use for a social media tool.
We are training our children to be digital citizens. We need to train parents as well to set positive examples. I encourage PTA groups and homeroom parents to design technology training session and set norms for social media for their schools.