Black Helicopter Parents

by Robert Pondiscio
May 4th, 2008

Helicopter parent? Why merely hover over your child when technology will let you be a black helicopter parent?

The New York Times looks at computer programs that provide daily, real-time data on kids’ in-school performance, from attendance to test scores. Programs like Edline, ParentConnect, Pinnacle Internet Viewer and PowerSchool are “changing the nature of communication between parents and children, families and teachers,” reports the Times. “Citing studies showing that parental involvement can have a positive effect on a child’s academic performance, educators praise the programs’ capacity to engage parents.”

What did you learn in school today? Forget it. Now you can know before your kid walks in the door.

On school days at 2 p.m., Nicole Dobbins walks into her home office in Alpharetta, Ga., logs on to ParentConnect, and reads updated reports on her three children. Then she rushes up the block to meet the fourth and sixth graders’ buses. But in the thump and tumble of backpacks and the gobbling of snacks, Mrs. Dobbins refrains from the traditional after-school interrogation: Did you cut math class? What did you get on your language arts test?

“Thanks to ParentConnect, she already knows the answers. And her children know she knows. So she cuts to the chase: “Tell me about this grade,” she will say. When her ninth grader gets home at 6 p.m., there may well be ParentConnect printouts on his bedroom desk with poor grades highlighted in yellow by his mother. She will expect an explanation. He will be braced for a punishment. “He knows I’m going to look at ParentConnect every day and we will address it,” Mrs. Dobbins said.

At best, the programs can help kids stay on top of things and act as an early warning system for trouble. At worst, it’s another lever for over-anxious parents to pull. “At an age when teenagers increasingly want to manage their own lives, many parents use these programs to tighten the grip,” notes the Times. “College admission is so devastatingly competitive, parents say, they feel compelled to check online grades frequently. Parents hope to transform even modest dips before a child’s record is irrevocably scarred.”

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

While the Core Knowledge Foundation wants to hear from readers of this blog, it reserves the right to not post comments online and to edit them for content and appropriateness.