Life in Digital…

By Zoe, single mum, event organiser, entrepreneur and tutor.

On the 21st Feb 2020, I had multiple events booked in for both work and pleasure, the kids are happy and engaged at school, I had students coming round that I teach Djing, music production, vocals and piano to. Everyone was none the wiser about what just around the corner – covid!

Within but a few short weeks all of my events had had to be rescheduled, face to face lessons transferred onto zoom and my kids are now learning from home instead of school and I have not had an event since then.

Being in a 2-bed flat with my two teenage children was getting really hard, the drain on the resources was huge, the increased internet usage proved a massive problem and the wifi wouldn’t reach my sons room, even though it was a top of range wifi router and he was only one door away.

Thankfully among all the mayhem when managed to have a successful move into a 3 bed house, which meant that the current lockdown didn’t utterly crush us all. We was just lucky that this opportunity came our way at the time of the pandemic. I am also a full time student (and working full time) from home the impact could have been a LOT worse. I really empathise with all the parents who don’t have decent tech, wifi and support in this time of need.

Due to the ages of my kids they both already had a laptop to do their work on (gifts from the grandparents for their 12 birthdays – coinciding with the start of ‘big’ school). However my son hadn’t really had enough time with it to know how to use it properly, or do much other than watch YouTube. Parental controls I found to be useless, they either blocked everything or nothing, and of course part of his schooling meant he had to look things up on YouTube.

I can only imagine how hard it must be for families who didn’t already have technology set up at home. I was definitely one of the lucky ones in so much that I was already working from home and studying for a degree, so I had a full studio setup, and due to my computer programming background, I knew the importance of being computer literate. I got my kids familiar with their own devices from an early age, plus I needed mine all the time too.

My neighbour had one laptop and 3 kids to homeschool and the school eventually took the children back as it was completely impossible to not only provide access but to police their access too. Kids will be kids and of course they are not going to do what they’ve been set if they can get away with it.

My daughters school handled it brilliantly, ensuring the kids brought their tech into school prior to lockdown and ensuring the girls knew how to access the learning and knew what their timetables were. They made the children responsible for their learning. I call her my ghosty because she has it totally nailed and is acing all her subjects. She is in lessons from 9am-3.30pm every day and has found the additional space and increased broadband really useful.

My sons school however has been decreasing the live lessons, haven’t updated the appropriate websites with the information on where and when he’s supposed to be online and introduced DD lessons (Digital Detox). My son has found this very problematic and struggles with the lack of constancy and support. The whole thing became a complete logistical and disorganised nightmare. Very much making the parents responsible and not the children. If couldn’t keep up with it, I have no idea how a 12-year-old is supposed to.

This was and has been my biggest challenge during this lockdown. We all had a full schedule and between my online uni work and online teaching I simply didn’t have the time or capacity to keep on top of my sons learning. I am just grateful that tech was never an issue for us. Yes my laptop camera has suddenly stopped working but I only used that for doing Zoom sessions in another room and have had to take all my teaching to my big desktop computer until I can get the laptop fixed, but aside from that everything else has worked beautifully including the SKY broadband which boasts great signal in every room of the house even upstairs! This was really important as my daughter plays online whilst talking to her friends on a different device, my son plays with his friends online and I’m busy using zoom and using audio creation software all at the same time.

With all this screen time cracks were really starting to show the last week before half term, so I invested in a trampoline and a bike and decided to stop trying to control his online learning from the school. I put his learning back into his hands encouraging him to keep going with the reading eggs program I purchased and the fun maths programs his school had recommended. Trying his best on the touch-typing course as this above everything else is what was holding him back the most, not being able to write as fast as he was thinking, especially as he’s dyslexic. He came off it, but then I sat down and showed him what 70wpm looked like and how quick he could get his work done if he just practiced.

Everything has become online, from work to relaxation and even socialising. It is screens on from sunrise to sundown. These times have all been unbelievably stressful and I expect the parents are really looking forward to having their devices back, their head and physical space back and the kids are looking forward to seeing their friends, getting away from their parents and getting back the usual mischief of being a kid.

How you can make a difference

Donate your Spare Devices

Tarner Community Project has teamed up with Level Up Laptops, a charity initiative created by Brighton based social prospecting company SoPro,  to generate laptop and monetary donations so that computer equipment can be refurbished and given to local school children struggling to access online learning resources.

To donate your unused laptop please fill our DONATION FORM and we will arrange pickup / drop off. For us to refurbish devices to the standards required by schools, devices need to meet the following requirements.

Laptops: 12” screen / Has windows 7, 8 or 10 installed / Wi-Fi capabilities and a webcam.

Chromebooks: 2016 or newer

Tablets: iPads – 2016 or newer / Android – 2016 or newer