There is a surprising recent trend in many schools to use WhatsApp groups to communicate with parents. Although free and easy to setup, it maybe costing the school in numerous ways. School leaders need to consider the following implications before embracing this technological trend.
- Lack of control
School leaders have little or no control over the conversations in these Whatsapp groups. They are very difficult to monitor and there is hardly any control over what gets posted on them.
- Lack of privacy
Most parents do not want the photos and videos of their child shared with everyone in a group. Casualness towards privacy of children is a serious issue in India. Progressive school leaders have a responsibility towards this.
- No content approval system
School leaders have no way of approving what gets shared on the whatsapp groups. The quality of the content is dependent on the individual teacher’s judgment, intentions and skills.
- Mobile numbers aren’t private
The mobile numbers of all members of a Whatsapp group are visible to each other, allowing phone calls and private messaging to individuals. Often teachers and parents get disturbed (and sometimes even harassed) at odd hours. There have also been cases of groups of parents ganging up against a teacher or the school.
- Stress on students
When parents see photos and videos of other students doing activities, they tend to compare their child with others, creating direct and indirect stress on their children.
- Effort of teachers tend to be judged
Teachers can often be the target of parent judgements, especially when a single parent tries to influence other parents against the teacher.
Banning Whatsapp groups in your school may not really work, as parents create them without the knowledge of the school. What schools need to do is provide a compelling alternative to parents. The need for a parent communication and parent engagement platform is genuine.
School leaders need to consider other smartphone apps in the market, tailor made to resolve all or most of the issues above. A platform that lets schools share and showcase student learning with parents privately.