11th November 2012
I find the concept of Lo-Fi – that is, choosing to minimise or even reject use of the internet or mobile phone - rather appealing. How delightful not to be at the beck and call of your phone or your email. Then I wake up from my reverie and remember that this just isn’t realistic for a parent of school-age children.
Communication from many schools is completely electronic. No longer do I have to dig around in the bottom of my kid’s school bags to check whether there is a note from school that I should have filled in and returned a week ago. Each note is now emailed to me, usually pre-warned by a text.
School applications are made online, paper application forms discouraged with dire warnings that applications must be in extra early and changes cannot be made once the application has been posted.
Schools also rely heavily on email and texts to communicate urgent information. One afternoon I received a phone call about 15 minutes after the end of school asking me “if I was going to pick my son up today?” “He has Tag Rugby tonight.” I replied. “No, it was cancelled, we sent a text.” My network had been down all afternoon, so I had no idea. If I hadn’t given them my mobile number, I wonder would I have got a phone call on my landline? In fact neither of my children’s schools ever phone me on my landline (despite my having requested that they do so – I can’t hear my phone if I leave it in my handbag).
Better still was the time when the electricity and phone lines at school failed due to an electrical fault and the school was closed at lunchtime. Parents were informed of the closure by, yes you’ve guessed it, email and text, neither of which were working without phone lines. I got the email and text at 4.30 in the afternoon.
My younger son’s school has gone cashless this term. All payments to the school, whether for lunches, music lessons, school trips or after school clubs have to be made via the internet. You can get a special payment card that allows you to make cash payments at a local shop, but I’m guessing the embarrassment factor must be pretty high – what does that say; ‘I can’t manage a bank account’ or ‘I don’t know how to work a computer’?
My elder son’s school is also trying to encourage us all to pay electronically (with a completely different payment system of course) for trips and the suchlike, although it is not compulsory as yet. However he is regularly set homework that involves researching on the internet or doing maths problems which are completed online, the results being sent electronically to his teacher.
Go Lo-Fi? It might be an appealing fantasy, but it would be pretty much impossible for parents, because our children’s schools won’t let us.
About the Author: Jacqui O'Brien is the Editor of eParenting.