Laptop nightmare – parents' experience
I am the parent of two children who have received laptops over the past three years, and I feel it is my civic duty to provide feedback, not only of my own experience but also those of other parents of many other schools who have shared their nightmare with me.
· Thus far my son has been asked to bring the laptop to school for educational purposes once per week — for IT. They are being taught how to use the Microsoft suite of products; my son is already familiar with these programs which could have been done using the school's computers.
· Homework that requires research that was previously conducted on the family (or friend's) PC, or at the library is now being conducted on the laptop, which of course requires Internet access.
I will now itemise the other parents have had to endure:
· During the first two months all the children were asked to bring in the laptops as the authorisation code had been compromised, and students were passing on the password to others, hence accessing sites that ought to have been blocked.
· During the first year there have been at least 40 damaged computers, with problems ranging from cracked screens, keys missing, power button malfunctions and batteries not keeping charge. After one year when the warranty expires the onus falls upon parents to pay for these repairs to be carried out.
· Some public libraries have commented on the first formers' usage of laptops and from observation the time has been spent on Facebook, YouTube and games.
The authority of the librarian only extends so far as to curtail usage of the library's computers, not personal laptops; hence for these 12-year-olds, the sky is the limit.
· On any evening after school, any parent walking through the school compound is guaranteed to see at least one laptop at use with 90 per cent of the time some computer game in progress.
· More recently pornography has entered the schools via laptops, first it was cell phones, now it is via laptops. The methodology is simple, the machines may not have a CD rom drive, but certainly most children have access to flash drives, and it only takes one child to bring unwanted pictures, music and games from home, and expose it to a whole classroom/year group of children. One can only expect the teacher to do so much and no more. I know of several cases of laptops being confiscated as a teacher has actually seen or been able to access the history of used programs when the truth was not forthcoming about the music, pictures or games.
· A peep into any household whose child has their laptop at home would reveal the parent's mantra of "Turn that thing off'' with increased frequency, because now, in addition the Xbox, ipod, cell phone and TV to compete for their time and attention, our form one children can now be mobile and walk into their bedroom/bathroom and spend hours on the internet or playing games.
So in addition to more unsupervised use of this communication technology we are fostering an increase in obesit. If before we had a hard time getting our children outside to play, this makes it all the more difficult, and the reality is that they have these laptops for a few years, so these bad habits are not going to change anytime soon.
Yes, there are parents who curtail the usage of laptops at home, but they are few and far between, and the battle we wage is constant and very difficult.
On behalf of some concerned form one parents of many schools, I am asking the Ministry of Education to have another look at the pros and cons that have emerged over the past year and consider other options that many people have suggested such as giving laptops to sixth formers or university graduates, or using the money to improve existing labs at school, so everyone can benefit.
The reality is that the average 12- and 13-year-old is not responsible or prudent enough in their thinking to take care of, far less, use, the laptop and harness its power to influence and access the good over the bad. We are being unfair in our expectations, and at the same time curtailing their opportunity to learn by giving them another technological toy to entertain themselves with, and expecting better results in the long run. Did it occur to anyone that the majority of parents who can afford to buy laptops for their children, were not doing so at this age? The reason why seems pretty clear.