Back to (home) school: Preparing for continued distance learning

Leena Elias 24 Aug 2020

Protect your home network and personal privacy this school year

Up until now, the home was for family dinners, movie nights, and the occasional online shopping spree. With the current pandemic, this has all changed, and none of us are entirely ready for it. Over the last few weeks especially, households across the country have been on the edge of their seats as states and counties debate the hottest button issue at the moment – should kids go back to school? 

Regardless of what your state and school district are recommending, parents are feeling overwhelmed and anxious about making decisions they don’t fully understand. Asked to pick between options they don’t like, most are facing the reality that they’ll likely be looking at some level of distance learning – whether it’s entirely online, or a hybrid model. So the real question then becomes – are you prepared to handle it? 

Recently, Avast commissioned a survey of 1,000 U.S. adults 18+ on their sentiments and preparedness around continued distant learning. While 61% of households anticipate some form of e-learning to be part of a new formal education model, only 16% admit feeling adequately prepared to handle distance/hybrid learning, and over two-thirds of the people we surveyed (69%) reported feeling uninformed about return-to-classroom plans and protocols. 

To help us all better navigate the ups and downs of back to (home) school, we put together a quick list of the 10 things you can do to be ready for the school year - whatever it may look like.

  1. Get to know your home network. Only 50% of people we spoke to reported feeling confident in their existing home network. If you’re like most people, you probably haven’t touched your router since you installed it, but your home network is only as secure as your router. Regularly restarting your router and updating account credentials can help safeguard all connected devices  and the data on them. Keep an eye on new software updates, as those are often used to address security issues. Consider a home network solution that protects all of your devices. 

  2. Bolster your bandwidth. Get a handle on the traffic on your home network and its limitations so you can better prepare for upcoming system demands. With less than half of households reporting confidence in their existing home networks’ ability to support an increased form of distance learning, identifying what you need and for what purposes ahead of time will help inform which solutions you need to install to best accommodate various online tools. 

  3. Don’t forget the basics.  Sometimes the simplest solution is often the most ignored security protocol. Even though 60% of people say their main concern with extended distance learning/hybrid education models is around data privacy and security of kids/students using online learning platforms, over a quarter (27%) have taken no security precautions, (less than half (45%) have antivirus software, only 19% reported having a comprehensive home network they trust). Invest in antivirus software protection

  4. Brush up on password hygiene. Passwords are the gateway to cybercrime, but only 28% of people said they regularly update the passwords on their connected devices. Ahead of the school year, reset device/account passwords and create new ones that are creative and unique to you and your family. Worried you and/or your e-student might forget said passwords and get locked out of important portals? Luckily, there are a few easy options to help keep track of login credentials...securely. 

  5. Set parental controls. As parents steel themselves for the prospect of distance learning, 60% of their concerns center around security. Whether related to data privacy, online learning platform security, or the security of public Wi-Fi, the safety and privacy of their child is top of mind. Yet, only 15% of consumers reported having parental controls in place. Sit down and have an ‘online safety’ discussion with your kids - let them know potential online dangers, red flags to look out for, and what to do if they encounter an inappropriate or uncomfortable situation. Utilize online resources and research software that makes the most sense to you.

  6. Create a digital schedule. With school, work and play melding online, using parental controls can bring peace of mind to parents, but we still need to communicate with kids to create trust, accountability and freedom with your child/e-student. Clearly define when it’s appropriate to use smart devices and when it’s not; what the maximum amount of screen time is per day, or limitations on apps and content types. Having different profiles for schoolwork and play (or maybe different devices) is imperative to establishing order for them, and for you. 

  7. Designate your workspace. 35% of people reported concerns over not having a quiet place to study as a main contributing factor that hinders their child’s success in distance learning. Organize a personal workspace for your e-learner that’s unique to them and conducive to their individual learning style. Have a printed daily schedule, stick with written agendas or deadlines. Remember, it doesn’t need to look like a classroom; focus on making sure there is a surface they can sit at comfortably to watch, read and write.  

    Further reading: How to set up your home workspace

  8. Keep one eye open. Familiarize yourself with settings, especially the privacy settings and controls across your family’s favorite, most used social media, communication platforms and apps.  For added security, invest in a tool that lends a helping hand in maximizing privacy settings. 

  9. Do your homework. Take the time to read the emails from your school and if they offer an orientation webinar or video, be sure to watch it. Sit down with your child and explore the learning software they are using and familiarize yourself with it together. Many school districts are using platforms like Clever to make it easier to access the wide array of learning tools and Seesaw for activity and assignments. Take time early on to learn these tools to save time and tears. Additionally, do some research on the security protocols of your educational institutions and how they’re planning to keep your kids safe online.

  10. Be a role model. 43% of consumers said access to teachers was a top factor they were concerned about hindering their child’s success in distance learning. Now more than ever our younger demographics are watching our every move, yet after helping kids with online schooling, many parents are playing catch up in any spare moment they can find. Be conscious of mixed messages (for instance, ordering our kids to get off the iPad while we scroll through our phones). Be as present and in the moment as you’d like your children to be, even if that means having a screen free dinner or turning devices off an hour or two before bed time.

Digital wellness has emerged as a category to describe the habits we have and the boundaries we set when using technology. It’s not a tip so much as a practice that we’ll be exploring further to understand how people are continuing to adapt their work, study, and social habits in these unprecedented times. 

Stay tuned, as we’ll soon be taking a deep dive into these topics to better prepare families and educators for what’s coming this school year.

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