I’ve been receiving questions about how to keep children safe in learning situations during COVID-19 – virtual learning, “drop and go,” and pod learning – so I thought it would be helpful to write a blog post for you about this topic.
I also want to let you know that I’m now delivering my Parenting Safe Children Workshop live by Zoom. You and your family and friends have two options for accessing my workshop:
- Sign up for the Parenting Safe Children Workshop Live via Zoom (includes Q&A and discussion with Feather),
- Sign up for the Parenting Safe Children Online Workshop (prerecorded and self-paced).
Please take the time to read this blog post on keeping kids safe in different learning situations, and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to email me or join our conversation on Facebook.
Your child may be learning by Zoom or may be in a hybrid situation where time is split between virtual learning and “drop and go” learning. We’ve already had situations where a teacher appeared on Zoom with no shirt, instances of online bullying, and peeping parents (not necessarily with ill intentions).
Here are some safety tips for virtual learning:
- If possible, have your child in a public area in your home rather than a bedroom.
- Check in with your child throughout their online school day.
- Prohibit one-to-one video conferencing between your child and an adult authority.
- Prohibit children sending videos of themselves to instructors (gymnastics, yoga, exercising).
- Consider turning your child’s video off while audio is still enabled.
- No matter how friendly your child is with their teacher, prohibit online contact outside of the formal learning setting.
- Discuss all of these boundaries with your child, their teacher, and the administration of the learning program.
- Have a social media / Internet agreement with children.
Drop and Go.
With physical distancing protocols, many schools have adopted a “drop and go” approach to minimize children’s exposure to additional people. In these situations, parents are no longer permitted into the school building when bringing children to school or picking them up; instead, parents must stop, drop/pick-up, and go. With “drop and go,” parents are typically not permitted to drop in for unexpected visits either. Therefore, direct conversations about child sexual assault prevention policies, and specifically contact with children, is more important than ever.
Here are some key points when speaking with the director and teachers at your child’s school about prevention policies:
- Make sure there is a policy and practice in which an adult or older child is never alone with a younger child. Tutoring should be done in a group setting. If tutoring needs to be done one-on-one, it should always be done in an open area rather than behind a closed door.
- Ask about guidelines regarding the appropriate and inappropriate touch of children by adults and by other children – e.g., high-fives are acceptable, but tickling is not.
- Discuss policies for changing diapers and clothes, which should be done in open areas. With bathrooms, children should go alone or if there’s more than one child using the bathroom, there should always be an adult supervising.
If your child will be learning in someone else’s home or if children will be coming to your home to learn, discuss body safety and sexual assault prevention with other parents just as you would discuss food allergies, medication needs, and bicycle safety.
This conversation is similar to one you’d have with another family when setting up a play-date:
- Who will be present in the home while children are gathered for learning?
- Who will have contact with children?
- How will toileting be handled?
- How will you monitor access to the Internet (whether it’s by smart phone, tablet, or computer)?
- What body-safety practices do you employ with children?
- How do you handle children’s sexual exploration of themselves or with other children?
- Are there weapons in the home?
You might approach this as a conversation to match expectations around safety.
Your Partner in Safety,
Feather Berkower, MSW, is Founder of Parenting Safe Children and a Child Sexual Assault Prevention Educator & Author