Program Helps Parents Catch Up With Their Kids' Computer Skills

Ofira Asa-Meshulam doesn't feel comfortable with computers, but if her second-grade daughter Ilana asks her how to do something on the computer, she wants to be ready with an answer.

Asa-Meshulam got her first taste of those answers last night, when she and 14 other parents in Ashdod gathered for the first two-hour session of a pilot program aimed at teaching the parents of elementary-school children how to surf the Internet safely and how to perform specific actions online, like sending and receiving chats and opening a Facebook page.

"My daughter is in second grade and I don't want to feel ignorant in front of her," said Asa-Meshulam. "I need more tools that will help me understand computers."

Ilana attends Zafririm Elementary School, which uses the Internet to communicate with parents and post homework assignments.

At the last parent-teacher conference, several parents told principal Oshra Lerer that they didn't have a basic foundation in computers and wanted to learn more. Lerer said she expects many more parents to take part in the six-session course in the future.

"We, the parents, are like immigrants in time, while the children belong to this time," said Lerer. "We're far behind. It is of the utmost importance to catch up and lead the children rather than being led by them."

Lerer said the school's approach is based on the concept that "the language of the future doesn't resemble the language of today," and said classes taught today generally make use of computers.

Yossi Ohayon, who represents the school's parents' committee and helped launch the computer course, said the pilot program will help parents understand their children.

"In order to create equality between parents and the students, you have to improve the parents' knowledge to create a situation in which parents will be confident about their computer use, especially the Internet," he said. "In that way, parents will serve as educational figures and knowledgeable people who will work with the child. In addition, the interaction between the parents and the teachers in school will become a tool by which the educators in school will be in direct contact and the educational system will be easily accessible to the parents."