For many students, going back to school will be different this year: some kids will return to their classrooms, while others will continue to study from home. But whether your child is learning online or in person, you can help them be safe, engaged and successful with these smart tips.

Staying Safe While Learning Virtually

With technology like video calling, online classrooms and social media study groups, distance learning is becoming easier. And in the case of four-year-old Addi, it even helped to bring her and her favorite preschool teachers closer together while keeping a safe distance. After several weeks of teaching remotely, the teachers stopped by all 60 of their students’ homes to leave them activity kits, sweet messages in chalk on the driveway and, for Addi, a special personal video on her family’s Ring Video Doorbell.

Addi’s mom Aubrey says “she loved seeing her teachers,” and that it was “amazing” that their Ring Video Doorbell recorded the video, so they “have that memory forever.” Aubrey says the moment not only brought tears to her eyes but also touched Addi’s dad: “My husband is not a crier [and] he was crying. It was just very, very special.”

More than ever, technology is increasingly an important part of our lives as a tool to bring us together. But for many families, the concept of online learning is still very much a new space. As virtual learning becomes more common across the country, now is the time to talk to your kids and establish a plan for digital success and safety with these helpful tips¹.

1. Sit down with your kids to set up an online schedule and boundaries that work for your family.

With so much in flux lately, it’s helpful to take a step back with your family members and set online-learning parameters ahead of time. The key is making the process collaborative. If your kids feel involved in setting these rules with you, they’re more likely to stick to them.

  • Set a schedule with virtual-learning tasks coming before social and gaming fun.
  • Determine “device-free” zones: Perhaps you ditch the devices at mealtimes, in bedrooms and/or after a certain hour at night.
  • Plan for a set amount of minutes of non-electronic activities each day. Set realistic guidelines for that daily goal, and brainstorm alternatives like family walks or bike rides, art projects and Friday game night.

2. Be proactive about checking in with kids’ online habits.

Setting up content blockers like safe-search filters is a great start. You can also enlist the help of smart products like eero, which offers a subscription service called eero Secure. It enables family-safe browsing on your home’s devices, and it also monitors your network continuously against online threats.

But don’t stop there. Check in with your kids regularly. Give them your time and attention, and talk about what they do online to ensure they are staying safely on track with their studies and other activities.

3. Get to know the look and feel of the platforms your child will be using for virtual-learning tasks, as well as their social and gaming apps.

Becoming more familiar with your kids’ favorite online platforms is an excellent way to help them stay safe, and it can also be a lot of fun. Take a quick break from your telework or household to-dos to connect with your kids where they are virtually. Jump on the gaming console together or simply send them a funny video on their favorite app. Using the games and platforms your child enjoys will help you better understand what they are doing online.

Staying Connected And Informed When Heading Back to School

Regardless of whether your kids go back to school in-person or virtually, technology can help you stay informed about what is going on in your neighborhood and stay connected to your home – no matter where you are. Staying informed and connected means staying safe.

To keep you connected to your home, Ring Video Doorbell sends you mobile notifications when anyone comes to your door so you can see, hear and speak to them from wherever you are – like Ashley did when her foster son was mistakenly dropped off at home instead of at daycare. The nine-year-old used the two-way talk feature to connect with her and she was able to assure him she was leaving work immediately to get home to him.

“We were both so comforted that I could stay on the line through the Ring, and I could see that he was on the porch and I could keep telling him I’d be home soon,” Ashley says.

Staying connected can also mean not missing important moments. Single mother Jonel works mornings, so she isn’t able to watch her kids leave for school in person, but Ring Video Doorbell allows her daily to say goodbye, make sure they are safe and wish them a happy day. One morning, her seven-year-old son also used the two-way talk feature to update her about important news: His loose tooth finally fell out, he explained, assuring her he’d hidden it from the family cats.

Kristine, too, is a mom who works mornings as the assistant principal at a different school than the one her son Makai attends. She often leaves before Makai is even awake. But last year, on Makai’s first day of school, Kristine was able to use her Ring Video Doorbell to call out to Makai to tell him to have a great first day – and she even snapped a first-day picture. “I could be a part of our family life while not being there,” Kristine says. “I usually miss out on this milestone, but not this time.”

It isn’t just about getting in touch in the moment. Ring Video Doorbell also lets you and your loved ones record messages for each other. When Rowen, 9, got home from school one day, he stopped at his family’s Ring Video Doorbell to record a silly video for his dad Daniel. The quick clip of Rowen dancing and pulling faces made Daniel laugh out loud when he received the Ring App notification. “That’s the best thing about it,” Daniel says. “My family can get ahold of me even when I’m from afar, whether it’s for a goofy video to make me laugh or security.”

While this school year will be different, making use of smart tools will help your kids stay safe and connected – no matter how they’re learning.

¹ Source: Internet Safety At Home, NetSmartz