SA parents bought or rented devices for children’s virtual lessons during pandemic: survey

23 November 2021 - 10:57
Extra devices have been needed for children's remote learning during the pandemic. File photo.
Extra devices have been needed for children's remote learning during the pandemic. File photo.
Image: Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes

More than half of SA families have bought or rented extra devices for their children’s remote learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is according to a global survey commissioned by cyber security company Kaspersky, in which 250 SA parents took part.

In the survey Kaspersky identified the technical challenges families faced during mandatory remote learning after lockdown measures instituted across the globe during the pandemic.

“To provide all their children with the devices they needed for online classes, more than half of families in SA (54%) with two or more children had to buy or rent additional devices.

“Interestingly, 70% of children in SA used smartphones for remote learning,” said Andrey Sidenko, head of Kaspersky’s online child safety department.

The survey found that 64% of children experienced technical difficulties connecting to online lessons regularly or periodically. Most (85%) received help from their parents to get their devices working. However, 10% of pupils resolved technical issues on their own.

“The mass enforced transition to remote learning brought about difficulties not only in terms of mastering the curriculum, but also technical issues. Many families had to purchase additional devices or borrow them from friends or the school if it offered this option, and install programs and regularly solve internet issues.

“This proved difficult for parents and children alike. But I’d like to hope that the experience gained from deep immersion in the online world will help us take a fresh look at the traditional offline learning format and use more effective digital tools,” said Sidenko.

To keep up with lessons, a lot of students had to install additional programs on their devices.

The survey found 46% of SA pupils started using new video conferencing services, and 37% downloaded interactive simulators and other educational programs.

Some parents (17%) found it necessary to start using a security solution.

“The demand for digital tools inevitably increased, and the educational sector continues to attract the attention of cybercriminals.”

According to Kaspersky research, the most popular lure used to be Zoom.

“This is not surprising given that Zoom is the most popular platform for virtual meetings, with more than 300-million daily meeting participants.

“The second most popular was Moodle, followed by Google Meet. The number of users who encountered threats disguised as popular online learning/video conference platforms increased for all but one platform — Google Classroom.”

Dr Lizzy Oluwatoyin Ofusori, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s school of management, IT and public governance, said in a recent blog for the Democracy Development Program that a major challenge for teachers and pupils “is the connecting devices needed to work with” virtual classrooms.

Ofusori said while teachers are likely to have access to devices, pupils “have to depend most of the time on their parents or guardians for such provisions, which might not be forthcoming, especially among parents or guardians who are among low-income earners”.

She said connectivity in remote areas also posed a problem.



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