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Families are redefining their relationship with technology – and so are we

By Vicki Shotbolt, Parent Zone CEO

Spend any time at all with the team at Parent Zone and talk will eventually turn to movies. That is because one of our writers is a film buff. The Lighthouse is his favourite, but I’m afraid that’s not to everyone’s taste. Our CFO much prefers an action-packed story, ideally with some heroic ‘overcoming the odds’ narrative threaded in.

A film that achieves a fairly broad spread of approval is Apollo 13. Who doesn’t love the bit where they pull out an air filter with a square end and explain to the team that they have to make it fit a round hole?

That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing with my team at Parent Zone over the last few weeks. All of our face-to-face delivery has pivoted to digital delivery. Our technical infrastructure has been tested as never before. Our listening skills have gone into overdrive, as we’ve focused on making sure that the support we’re creating is relevant and useful.

We’ve taken an organisation that was shaped to provide support in a socially connected way and redesigned it so that we can continue to provide support at a distance. And in doing so, we’ve learnt that some things are better when they are round instead of square.

Take the whole notion of getting parents into a building to give them an ‘internet safety talk’. Many parents find it tough to attend physical events during working hours and it’s almost impossible for a couple to attend together.

Even if the sessions are scheduled for the evening there are all the childcare issues to overcome – and who really wants to spend your precious babysitting budget on a one-hour talk, however important it might be?

Remove that barrier and you make it possible for mothers and fathers to attend. Together or apart – it doesn’t matter. They can be there on time or they can watch it later. They can join in and ask questions or they can sit quietly on the sofa and email their question in once they’ve had time to talk to their children about the issues you discuss.

Remote digital delivery doesn’t just work as well as face-to-face: it works better.

But there is something even more fundamental about the parent sessions that we have been running that has changed, and that is that ‘internet safety’ is only part of the conversation. Families are redefining their relationship with technology and in pragmatic, sensible ways discovering that there is more to making it part of family life than rules and tools.

Parents are asking us how they can help their children to socialise using tech. They want to know how they can help their children find the right apps or websites to support their education and mental health needs. Of course safety is still a priority, but parents are equally keen to talk about how to make the best use of technology for their family. As we plan for a less locked-down world, our focus will remain on this healthier, broader conversation that doesn’t trigger fear or guilt but does empower and facilitate.

We’re still in listening mode and our pivot isn’t complete – but we already know enough to see that what we’re learning now is going to shape our offer for the long term. It’s going to be a different relationship with families and technology and it’s shaping up to be a much better discussion.

If you’d like to join the conversation please email us at info@parentzone.org.uk


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