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Does Parent Portal Lurking Hinder A Kid's Sense of Responsibility?

A Patch blogger hits a nerve by declaring her avoidance of the school's online tool, which she believes shifts responsibility from student to parent.

The Oct. 14 column on parent portals drew many comments from Patch readers online and on Facebook.
The Oct. 14 column on parent portals drew many comments from Patch readers online and on Facebook.
Cindy Terebush's blog post about parent-portal anxiety this week drew numerous comments from Patch readers who are ambivalent, enthused or indifferent with online access to their kids' grades in real-time. 

Terebush, a child education specialist and mother of a high school junior, declared that despite recommendations, she personally declines to constantly check her son's grade. To do so would relieve him of being held accountable for his own performance and shift part of that responsibility to herself, she believes. 

She became inspired to write about parent portals after speaking with parents who regularly remind their kids about upcoming tests and assignments -- in college. "They are still stalking their children," said Terebush, in a phone interview Wednesday. "They're way too involved. It makes me worried what kind of adults that makes. After all, no one is going to call someone's boss and ask them when their project is due." 

In an increasingly competitive society, parents feel pressure to help their children as much as they can. But parents who are constantly checking the teacher websites and grades every day are feeding into their own fears and losing perspective, says Terebush. "What do children learn when we are constantly their safety net?" she said.  

There are better ways to be informed, she says. "I think they should be having conversations with their children. Emailing teachers to start a dialogue. A portal can’t tell me the reason for my child’s behavior or why my child is struggling," said Terebush. "Parents need to initiatiate more involvement." 

Michele Popolizio of Howell says nothing replaces a parent's desire for "human interaction." She wrote on the Patch Facebook page, "Call me and tell me if my child needs help focusing, studying or has any missing assignments because the portal is not, I stress not, always updated."  

Several parents added about how much they appreciate the "birds eye" view into their child's classroom.  "After years of complaining that teachers don't let parents know there is a problem until the child is failing, now we have the opportunity to help our developing children work through hard times and work to their fullest potential," said Carrie Barreiro, in a comment on Matawan-Aberdeen Patch Facebook page. "That should not be seen as a burden, it is a gift."

Jennifer Hahnem wrote on Little Silver-Oceanport Patch's Facebook page that Terebush's son needs the opportunity to grow and "own" some aspect of his life.  "Too many parents are smothering their children and thinking for them to keep them from making any mistakes simply because they are afraid of what other parents say." 

"If they fail, it's their problem," said Helen Kmak Bogad, in a discussion on the the Middletown-NJ Patch Facebook page. "If they have to go to summer school, oh well, they failed not you! They need to learn responsibility for their own actions." 

Stephanie Helman Muller agrees, in principle. "I also don't go on the school websites or teacher websites unless it's absolutely necessary," she said on the East Windsor Patch Facebook page. "Kids are probably not going to have these tools in college, and definitely won't have them in life beyond college. Why make them dependent on technology instead of themselves?"

Susan Franci Mickel also left a comment on that Facebook discussion. "I log on once a day...I want to see where he is doing well for positive reinforcement and if he is not doing well, I certainly don't want to be the last to know. Some kids are self regulated and others aren't....so don't judge."

Read more articles by Patch Blogger Cindy Terebush on her blog called "Helping Kids Achieve."

Would you like to start your own blog? Look on the bottom of the front page of your town's Patch site for the "Start Blogging" button. We look forward to your posts. Read more about blogging on Patch.  


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