National Families Week: The relationship between families, educators and wellbeing

Industry leaders reflect on issues facing children, families and educators before National Families Week.
May 14, 2021
Working together

Saturday, May 15th marks the start of National Families Week with this year focusing on the theme of community wellbeing.

The relationship between families and educators is symbiotic, one needs the other and Francesca Pinzone, COO of speech pathology and occupational therapy service Umbo, says, “When we look at children, and the small and dynamic ecosystems in which they exist, we often think first about the connection with parents, their siblings, their extended family and their friends. But when we focus out a little more broadly, one of the key relationships in their life is their teacher.

“It is not just the time that they spend with their teacher, but the level of influence and the behaviours that their teacher upholds. The role of the teacher in a child's life is not only that of an educator, but also as a core relationship in their life – almost like that of a family member.

“After a day of learning, play and no doubt some mischief, each student in a classroom goes home each night with the sound of their teacher’s voice, message and presence in their head.

“As parents, we value this role immensely as teachers work with us to guide our children to form their ideas, their knowledge and their place in the world.

Mary Malak, CEO of Humanity Matters which creates connected communities, thinks that there is much to do in balancing the access that children have to opportunity.

“From knowledge building to learning the critical social and life skills to thrive, having access to education can shape the future livelihood for many individuals. However, the sad reality is that there is a long way to go until equal access to education opportunities is achieved for our children.

“Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the educational marginalisation that exists among our youth. When children were forced to adopt online learning, those from educationally, socially and economically disadvantaged groups found themselves left even further behind and disengaged from mainstream schooling services. Furthermore, the economic impacts of the pandemic exacerbated uncertainties young people have about their future, adding to their hesitance around engaging with current schooling systems. 

“It is a critical time for communities in which young people exist to step up and better support future generations in their learning journeys. People who hold key relationships with young people, like families, teachers, community leaders or mentors, need to create the right infrastructure and safe spaces to empower young people to re-engage with school or participate in learning programs.

“For those young people disconnected from these key supports, we need to proactively reach out to engage with these young people where they are, whether this is parks, train stations, back alleys etc.

Whether through formal mainstream education or out-of-school programs such as ones managed by youth experts or programs specifically tailored to meet different needs or closer collaboration between the education system and youth workers working with those young people alienated from the mainstream, the focus needs to be on ensuring all children have their needs met and are afforded every opportunity to develop and grow.

Roger Carvosso, Strategy Director, FirstWave Cloud Technology thinks that one aspect that has remained contentious is teaching children how to stay safe online.

“All too often we see the responsibility for cybersecurity slip through the cracks. This is no more true than in our education system. Whilst we’ve come a long way from computer classes consisting of how to use word processors and online encyclopedias, the lines are still unclear as to who is ultimately tasked with teaching our children about cyber safety.

“In truth, there is no easy answer – it needs to be a collaborative effort. Technology is no longer something children only use for assignments or communicating with friends, it permeates every area of their lives, therefore, there needs to be increased communication between parents and our education system to instil best practice from an early age. However, most parents and teachers are not qualified cybersecurity professionals, so there is a big role for the government to play in supporting the creation of a more in-depth cybersecurity syllabus as early as possible.

“We will be dealing with the consequences of generations of people who are not digitally native for a little while longer. But if families and our education system work together, there is no reason why a lack of cybersecurity awareness should be passed onto children today,” he says.

Ian Yip, CEO of cybersecurity company Avertro believes that in our increasingly digital-first world, no one is experiencing the benefits and challenges of this more than our younger generations.

“It's important this National Families Week to recognise the critical roles communities, including families and educators, play in keeping our children safe online. In families, cyber safety should start with the parents. If they are not properly educated, it is unlikely that the children will be armed with the right behaviours and education to make informed decisions about their own cyber safety. It is an often-used trope that kids are typically more technically savvy than their parents and as a result, know what they are doing. Unfortunately, that is not necessarily the case as cyber safety isn’t about knowing how to use technology; it’s about knowing the specific risks that one must navigate as a user of technology.

“In the context of schools and how best to address cyber safety across families, there should be a two-pronged approach. Kids should absolutely be educated on cyber safety at school. At the same time, parents should be made aware of what is being taught to ensure alignment and to address the possibility that parents may not be cyber aware to the point of being able to make informed decisions for themselves and for their children.