How to attract parents to online safety sessions in schools

Posted on 25 May 2016

The Childnet team has delivered parent presentations to packed audiences of 200, and have also delivered the same presentation to an audience of one or two parents.

An average session is usually 25 parents. From their experience, and from speaking to schools who are able to get more than 50 parents to attend these presentations, here is a list of 6 things that schools can do to encourage more parents to attend online safety sessions. 

Vary the start times

Some schools have opted for a 9am coffee morning start time, which has proven very popular with parents in recent times. 

It can be difficult for parents to be motivated to attend an evening presentation after work, especially if finding evening child care is tricky. By experimenting with timings, or by sending around a survey to parents in advance, you can find out what time suits the most parents to attend. Our education team have delivered sessions at 9am, in the hour before school pick-up, immediately after school and twilight sessions between 6 and 8pm.

Catch them while they are already in school

Some schools combine a Childnet online safety session with practical advice given by the school. It could be that following the presentation, the school shows parents how to use the homework portal, or has a parent-teacher meeting just beforehand. Alternatively, promote your online safety event at every occasion that you see parents face-to-face so they are aware of the time and date of the session.

Have an internet safety week

Although many schools celebrate Safer Internet Day with us (7th February 2017), some schools also choose to host an internet safety week earlier or later in the year.

By dedicating a week’s focus to internet safety, parents are more aware of the importance of online safety and often attend a session to learn more. Each year for Safer Internet Day we create education packs that contains a resource pack to engage parents and carers.  These are still available to use and you can find the packs for the last few years on the UK Safer Internet Centre’s Safer Internet Day page. 

One school in particular had an excellent turnout (over 80) when a Teaching Assistant gave a presentation on a particular subject (gaming) in the same week as the Childnet online safety session. The Teaching Assistant had 20 parents at their session, but as word of mouth spread at how good it was, two days later, there was 80 parents at the Childnet event.

Remind parents again and again!

Parents, like teachers, are very busy people. In our experience, we have found that it is not enough to advertise the online safety session once in the newsletter and expect parents to come. Those with good turn outs have reminded parents well in advance of the session by sending letters home, and then also put up the provided Childnet promotional posters around the school, as well as texting them a reminder the day before. If your school has parent representatives, you could get them involved to spread the word as well.

Have a section dedicated to online safety in the newsletter

By showing to parents that you, as a school, take internet safety seriously, it should hopefully inspire parents to educate themselves more on the matter. On a practical note, as part of students’ homework, you can ask them to write a formal letter to their parents inviting them to attend the online safety session, a format which has worked wonders in some schools.

Team up with local schools

If you are a small school, to spread costs and to ensure a good turnout, an excellent idea is to team up with local schools in the area and open up the parent session to all. This has proven very successful for some schools, with turnouts of over 60.

Get the pupils involved

Schools that have undertaken their own online safety sessions have told us that an effective way of promoting attendance is to invite pupils to share messages and tips in the session. This also provides opportunity for parents/carers to hear first-hand how children and young people feel about using the internet, and what steps they take to stay safe and positive.

These are just a few ideas, and it would be great to hear from schools about any other tricks they have used to help with parental engagement. If you have a success story you would like to share then please do let us know by emailing[email protected].

Whatever you choose to do in school to raise awareness of online safety, we hope all your internet safety sessions go well!

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