School Parents Going Online To Connect With Others

02/02/2016 5:51 AM AEDT | Updated February 2, 2016 05:52
Ariel Skelley via Getty Images

Turns out it's not just kids who have to make new friends when they start school. Like it or not, their parents also have to strike up some new relationships -- after all, how else are they going to know who to call to organise a play date?

However, the traditional means of school parents getting to know each other -- volunteering at the tuck shop, for instance -- are becoming outdated in today's digital world, particularly for those parents who work full-time. Hence, meeting other parents aside from the drop-and-dash environment of the school's front gates is becoming increasingly difficult.

It's a problem co-founders of parent-only social networking site, schoolparents.com.au, Kate Sanchez and Kirsty Dahdah, came across when their eldest children each started school.

"Kate and I have been friends for over 20 years," Dahdah told The Huffington Post Australia. "We went to school together, to uni together, and even started families roughly the same time.

"When our eldest children started at preschool, we both found we wanted to connect with the other mums and dads. Not only for our own benefit and the opportunity to make new friendships, but for our kids.

"To our surprise, we found it quite difficult, and we are both moderately confident -- we're certainly not shy."

Dahdah says she believes one of the reasons she struggled with forming those connections is because she didn't get a proper chance to cultivate them.

"Part of it is because you don’t always see the same parents at the school gate, and you just don’t have the opportunity to form that connection," Dahdah said.

"You can't really stay in touch with them on the level you’d like to."

So Sanchez and Dahdah decided to take matters into their own hands.

"We spoke to a lot of parents and mums and did greater research groups, and found a lot of parents felt the same way," Dahdah said.

"In fact, in our inaugural schoolparents report, in which we polled over 1000 school parents, we found out 92 percent of mums and dads recognised the benefits of building relationships with other school parents, but nearly half of that [46 percent] said they find it hard to break into parenting networks."

The place to effectively facilitate these relationships seemed increasingly to belong online -- but Dahdah said there weren't appropriate platforms for what she was looking for.

"A lot of people also felt that, in this context, Facebook wasn't appropriate," Dahdah said. "For starters, you'd need a parent's first and last name, which isn't always easy. And even if you did have that information... Facebook can be so broad, and we just didn't know if it was appropriate to talk about children's issues on there."

And so schoolparents was born.

kids playing

Heading online can help facilitate play dates.

Essentially, the premise is similar to any other sort of social networking tool -- you log in, you create a profile. Then you can attach yourself to a particular school, and, from there, a certain grade, making it easier for other parents to find you.

Schools can also list themselves (much like businesses can create their own 'page' on Facebook) and deliver a news feed for parents to follow.

"To be able to receive information from the school in real time -- in short blasts, often -- is a huge benefit," Dahdah said.

"As a parent you don't want to sit down at the end of the week and read the printed newsletter. There's just not enough time and that's not how people consume information anymore."

But the heart of the operation, Dahdah maintains, is being able to connect parents together, particularly the parents of your child's new friends.

"Young children often have trouble recollecting their full day at school by the time they get home," Dahdah told HuffPost Australia. In preschool, they might not be able to come home and articulate the exact name of their friends.

"So, to get the information that [these two children] play together and to help assist with that out of school hours, it all goes back into making the child more resilient and more confident, and happier at school.

"For instance -- and this is a personal example -- my little boy just started at prep. I just dropped him off and he was in tears again. It was so hard to leave him.

"I want to get to know some of the parents [at his school]. I want to find out who he is playing with and try to foster those little relationships outside of school so he can start going and enjoying it more."

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