You probably get text reminders from your dentist's office about your upcoming appointment, and from your bank when there's suspicious activity on your account (it was just a little midnight online shopping splurge, lay off). It only makes perfect sense that the next automated message to pop up on your smartphone screen would be about your kid's missing math homework. According to research, texts home about behavior in class may improve school performance. But is it a step too far?
Researchers Peter Bergman and Eric W. Chan of Teachers College, Columbia University conducted a study involving 22 middle and high schools in West Virginia that sent automated text message alerts to parents about their child's missed assignments, grades and class absences. This resulted in a 39 percent reduction in course failures and increased class attendance by 17 percent. The message looks just like this: "Parent alert: Jaden has 5 missing assignments in science class. For more information log online." Though more info was accessible online, the study found that parents rarely if ever logged in. That suggest parents were likely—gasp—talking to their kids. The preliminary draft of this study was published in February 2017.
The study reports that "the intervention appears to change parents' beliefs about their child's performance and increases parent monitoring." There were no effects on tests scores, and this intervention technique worked much better with the high school kids than middle school kids. But still, the study persists, "our results show that this type of automated technology can improve student performance relatively cheaply and at scale."
Parents getting involved in their children's life is positive, much to the chagrin of angsty teens. But what happens when there's too much of a good thing? Perhaps you've heard the term "helicopter parent," a parent who is intimately and obsessively involved with every move their kids make. Having schools text parents about little missteps could seem to border on this territory. So what of it? Helicoptering parenting may stunt kids' emotional and cognitive development, and even induce anxiety, according to research. But it's a completely avoidable trap. After you check your phone for a text from school, don't forget to check yourself too.