Providing parents with information about new technology

Jacquie Disney and Maggie Holgate, Parents Information Network, wrote this article in 1997.

Parents Information Network (PIN) is an independent organisation for parents who want to enter the information age with their children. It gives support and advice to parents about technology, so it is appropriate that PIN itself should be exploring new technology in the form of the Internet. Jacquie Disney and Maggie Holgate explain how PIN is going about it.

For PIN, a Web site is a way to reach a wider audience, both in terms of parents, who make up the membership of the organisation, and in terms of making wider contacts and reinforcing the organisation's profile. By being on the Web we have a showcase for everyone who visits our site. This means we can offer the full range of information services provided by PIN and we can also draw attention to issues which are of significance to parents and everyone interested in the home computer market.

We are currently putting the finishing touches to the PIN Web site and, alongside this, a PIN area on the online service AOL. This has been a fairly demanding exercise. We have spent time working out exactly what we want our online presence to achieve and we have planned the material we are putting up very carefully. It seemed important to us to provide mechanisms for online questions and feedback as we feel an effective Web site needs to establish a sense of community where people can receive support but also provide it. We have put a lot of effort into getting these aspects right. In the end, because we want what we do to be good, it has taken us a little longer to get the Web site off the ground than we first anticipated.

The Internet has also had an effect on the internal workings of our organisation. PIN has a number of geographically dispersed, part-time workers. Email and conferencing enable the whole team to keep in close touch and work collaboratively. This does not mean we never meet face-to-face but when we are all off doing different things in different places, it certainly makes the process of communicating quicker and easier.

PIN is an organisation expressly concerned with people who don't feel particularly knowledgeable or confident about technology, so conventional methods of communication will still remain very important to us, but we hope that the Internet will enable us to reach a new audience and open up a new dimension to our work. It's still early days yet for PIN and the Internet but we are very positive about its potential.

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