Forum: Give parents some control over use of personal learning devices at home

The Ministry of Education (MOE) is distributing personal learning devices to all secondary school students in Singapore.

While this initiative is laudable in that it promotes digital literacy and improves access to learning from home, MOE should look beyond academic learning and work with parents to manage device use.

The use of such digital devices can have physical and mental effects. Eye-care professionals have reported significant deterioration in eyesight among children in Singapore after last year's circuit breaker.

The blue light from devices can also affect sleep quality, which could then lead to a host of mental health problems.

It has been about four months since my child received a device as part of a pilot. Native parental control apps on the devices were disabled and parents were not allowed to install their own.

At the same time, there has been no information about when the MOE-procured device management system will be rolled out.

Tablets should not have been issued without giving parents the ability to manage the use of the devices.

This has led to some parents struggling to manage their children's device use.

Going forward, MOE should also lay out a uniform set of policies on how schools engage students on their devices.

For example, teachers should not set the deadline for handing in online work at midnight, because this just gives teenagers the excuse to use their devices until midnight.

Instructions to students should be given out verbally during class, not after school hours via e-mail.

Children should not be expected to do project work via Zoom as it encourages them to spend hours online under the guise of doing "group work".

The guidelines I suggested will help ensure healthy guardrails are built between children and their devices.

Pang Sze Yunn

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