When selecting a parent engagement app for your child care center, many opt for Facebook given the ubiquitous nature of the social network. It’s understandable to opt for a channel that so many of us use on a weekly or even daily basis in our personal lives. However, there are some major distinctions between sharing children’s daily updates with parents on an open social network like Facebook, and sharing those same updates on a private, password-protected app like HiMama.
Here are some of the primary differences between Facebook and HiMama:
Facebook Groups and Page updates are not specific to a parents’ child
Facebook Group and Page posts are not directed to a specific user and typically wouldn’t be about a daily update for just one child. Instead, all parents receive the messages posted to the page. The result of group posts is that all parents receive the same update and each parent receives updates about all of the children in the class.
With HiMama, parents only receive updates specific to their own child. They are not shared with other parents at the center, the way a Facebook group message would be.
A key consideration when using Facebook to share updates with parents is to ask yourself ‘what happens after graduation?’ Once a child leaves the center, educators either have to remove parents from the group (and parents would then lose those special moments) or maintain a parent’s access even after graduation, which is a privacy challenge. With HiMama, parents continue to have access to moments, memories and reports, even after their child leaves the center.
Facebook posts are not driven by pedagogical documentation
A standard Facebook post is simply text, a series of photos and possibly a link to an external website. There are no formal ties to a curriculum or frameworks related to early childhood education. A childcare app designed around learning and development will have contextual updates not available on a generic social media site.
HiMama integrates state and provincial learning and development frameworks to make updates as relevant as possible between parents, child care providers and those they report to. Educators have the opportunity to add Early Childhood Education specific notes with every activity update as part of their in-classroom pedagogical documentation. Also, parents can track their child’s developmental growth over time and see reports on how their child is learning – a critical feature that would be missed by sharing updates over a social network.
Facebook is designed for consumers, HiMama is designed for child care providers
Facebook is designed for users to share their thoughts and feelings about their world. It’s a great forum for organizations to share blog posts, news links and public events. It is not intended to be a private reporting platform for parents.
HiMama is designed specifically for child care providers and is based on extensive consultations with Early Childhood Educators. Educators record naps, meals, fluids, toileting, and more in a daily report to help parents and support child development. Educators can send regular requests and reminders for supplies and track children’s daily attendance in a way that would be difficult to maintain on a public social network.
Our app is exclusively focused on early childhood education updates. As a result, when adding new daily entries, staff are less likely to be distracted with HiMama as they could be with Facebook (where they can also access their own personal account).
Facebook is not designed for two-way communication between educators and parents
Messaging on Facebook isn’t specific to individual parents and educators. When parents send a message to a Facebook Page or Group, whomever has access to that page (all Educators, Directors, Admins, Volunteers) would receive the message. It would be difficult to maintain a private ongoing communication channel through a Facebook Page.
With HiMama, parents receive real-time notifications via email, our iOS and Android apps, along with SMS messages in emergencies. Parents can reply privately to your center during the day and follow-up with direct conversations with educators at the end of the day, enhancing ongoing parent communication and building stronger relationships between child care providers and parents.
Facebook Pages are often left unknowingly open to the public
Most child care centers who share updates to parents on Facebook do so using a Facebook Page. Pages are public by default, preventing the center or parents from restricting who receives updates and photos of the children – anyone can access the updates.
HiMama is a secure and private, password-protected website. With HiMama, parents are in control of who can receive updates in a password protected environment.
It’s possible (even likely!) that the reason your center may opt for using a social network for parent engagement is because of an assumption that it’s the platform most used by family members. While this is true, we surveyed over a thousand parents across the U.S. and Canada to find out about their social sharing behaviors and preferences and the results may surprise you. While parents are active on social media, like Facebook, they are also incredibly privacy and security conscious when it comes to their children’s information online. For example, parents most preferred channel for schools and child care programs to share photos of their child is through password-protected sites. If you would like to learn more, we have provided a great resource for exploring Parents in a Digital Age – available as a free download here.