They are for school and class updates, not for religion, politics and irrelevant but contentious topics
Back when I was a student, mobile phones were a novelty and one could not even send a text message to another network.
The idea of a group chat was unheard of. The closest thing we had to it was a phone brigade to relay important information. One parent was tasked to call another, who would then pass on the information to her assigned parent, and so on.
There was a clear demarcation line between the child’s academic life and the parent, to be crossed only during the Parent-Teacher Conference.
I doubt our mothers knew more than a handful of their co-parents during our elementary and high school years. Our schoolwork was purely our responsibility, whether we liked it or not.
These days, it’s a whole new ball game. Online communication apps such as Viber, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp have popularized chat groups for families, friends, schoolmates, work colleagues and, yes, parents.
Even before a child gets home, a parent can be informed of the day’s homework, tests and reminders. Parents are also forming closer friendships with one another, thanks to chat groups.
But I believe certain rules of etiquette must be observed.
In one small school-chat group I belonged to a few years back, everyone knew one another and there was no need for rules. The members had become good friends and frequently used the chat group for personal and school updates.
But now that I have several chat groups, with different classes that have since gotten bigger, I appreciate a code of conduct.
It felt strange to see a code being posted on the first day of the chat group, but as the years went by, I realized that, certain rules needed to be established. Otherwise, lengthy, sometimes meandering, discussions tend to drown out relevant information and the chat group’s purpose.
Sometimes it’s necessary to review rules, since group members become familiar with each other and it’s easy to set the rules aside and forget that they still apply.
Respect the purpose
1) Respect the main purpose of the chat group: school and class updates. Irrelevant topics, as well as religion and politics, no matter how strongly you may feel about current events, are out. There is no easier way to find yourself in a heated argument than by voicing out your opinion in a school chat group.
2) Don’t disturb the members’ sleeping hours. Some people put their mobile phones on silent mode while they sleep, but others keep it on for urgent matters. Unless there’s really an emergency or an announcement the members need to know first thing in the morning, such as suspension of classes, it’s irritating to be roused from sleep in the wee hours for small talk.
3) Sending a private message is preferred if a member wants, for instance, to tell another member about anything personal.
4) Be sensitive and think twice before sending out certain messages. It’s always easier to send out invitations to a group chat—but only if you intend to invite everyone.
Goodness, who would have thought that, in this day and age, chain mail would still be around, but reincarnated as a forward on chats and e-mail. I suppose you can lump these messages along with unverified or false urban legends.
5) Be helpful. If a member asks about something you know of, or have access to the information needed, share it. After all, that’s what everyone is there for.
6) Don’t call out a parent’s attention. If you must discuss problems, that should be between you and the other parent, not with the whole chat group seeing the messages. Passive-aggressive remarks have no place in the chat group.
7) In case of tension, remember that it is the parents’ chat group, not the children’s. Everyone must act accordingly and always speak in a respectful and mindful manner.
Chat groups for a child’s class can be a blessing. I can’t count the times I have turned to it—whether to find out where to buy a costume for the Christmas play, or be reminded of school activities. But that access has to be respected and treated correctly—otherwise we run the risk of abusing the system.
While it serves the purpose of sharing information on school-related activities, we must find a balance that leaves the responsibility of knowing what must be done solely on the shoulders of our children.