IFFOR Policy Council meeting, 1 May 2020


  • Fiona Alexander
  • Chad Anderson
  • Sharon Girling
  • Kieren McCarthy
  • Emily Taylor

Meeting opened with introductions.

We walked through the goal of the work: producing a pragmatic report covering parental controls and online learning. 

There was discussion around what the group could and should produce. One idea was to create a responsible use policy for different applications and different age groups. Or a basic rundown of parental controls that need to be in place. Another idea was a human-centric approach in which different groups are identified and surveyed over their experiences with online learning, and then their responses summarized.

Another useful approach may be to look at recent changes made to parental controls on well-known apps and devices in the light of the huge increase in use of them thanks to the coronavirus and see if that tells its own story.

A wealth of issues around online learning and parental controls were raised, such as a dangerous lack of controls on laptops that have recently been provided to schoolchildren at home, and concern over what is happening to the data that is being gathered on children. 

How should IFFOR combine the goal of producing something practical with the desire to contribute to a broader understanding of the issues in the longer term? It was suggested that acting as a signpost for good examples of work by other groups could help bridge that gap.

It was noted much of the current literature is text-heavy. So it could be useful to summarize the situation, particularly any analysis the group carries out, as well as make sense of existing resources and approaches.

This would be best approached in a graphical format that can help provide a framework as well as identify clusters of similar ideas, outliers and gaps. A visual approach would also have the advantage of standing out and helping people make sense of a complex topic in a simple and easy-to-understand way.

Gathering feedback from parents and teachers was seen as something that would be useful to add an extra layer of real-world analysis. Given time and resource constraints that may be difficult but there may also have been similar surveys in the past on how parents view parental controls and how useful they find them that could prove instructive.

Another point of discussion was how to make the final report visible to a wider public, given the number of organizations looking at the topic and a glut of recent guides. Again, a visual approach was seen as a good way to “break through the noise” by being accessible and engaging.


We will continue using a combination of three tools: email to communicate, Google Docs to draft work and Zoom for meetings. 

Next steps

  • Boil down the conversation to pragmatic steps forward
  • Develop an initial list of categories to help structure the work
  • Next meeting to be scheduled in two weeks’ time: Friday 15 May