Zoom Video Calls: A Guide and Tips for Parents, Students, & Educators

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April 14, 2020

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Table of Contents

Zoom Video Calls: A Guide and Tips for Parents, Students, & Educators by Josh Ochs SmartSocial.com

The Zoom app is all over the news since kids and adults are using it for class time, family time, and social connections. Zoom is a great way to see classmates and loved ones during this time of social distancing, but the FBI wants parents to know about “Zoom bombings” and predatory strangers showing up in student meetings. Smart Social asked experts for some helpful tips to make using Zoom easier and safer for students (and adults).

What is the Zoom App?

  • It’s a free video conferencing app that lets users participate in video calls or host video meetings
  • The free plan allows 40 minute video conference calls for up to 100 participants 
  • 1 to 1 meetings are unlimited
  • Get meeting access through the Zoom phone app, web browser, desktop app, or call through a dedicated phone number
  • There are three premium plans for more group call time, cloud recordings, and additional participants
  • Students can join Zoom calls using a provided link, phone number, or meeting ID and password

Zoom for Students

How to download the app, join a class, and use interactive tools.

[su_youtube_advanced url="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbnyQwsVbiY" width="800" autohide="yes" rel="no" https="yes"]

Teach Online with Zoom - Beginners Tutorial

How to use the webcam, whiteboard, and recording features.

Zoom Tips for Parents, Teachers and Students

Troubleshooting techniques before a call.

Zoom 101 Sign Up & Download Meeting Client

How to sign up and download the app.

Zoom 101: Securing your Meetings & Virtual Classrooms

Security tips for meetings and classrooms.

Zoom App in the News

The New York Times: 'Zoombombing' becomes a dangerous organized effort
An analysis by The New York Times found 153 Instagram accounts, dozens of Twitter accounts and private chats, and several active message boards on Reddit and 4Chan where thousands of people had gathered to organize Zoom harassment campaigns, sharing meeting passwords and plans for sowing chaos in public and private meetings. (Since this article’s publication, Reddit has shut down the message boards where Zoom raids were discussed.)  New York Times
NewYork headline: s it safe to use Zoom? by Brian Feldman
People are guessing or finding Zoom meeting ID numbers online and entering uninvited to leave disruptive comments or share disruptive media using Zoom’s screen-share feature. Finding open meetings, which have IDs from nine to 11 digits, is relatively simple and has already been automated. Until a patch issued this week, the meeting ID would often be highly visible in screenshots.  New York Magazine
The Verge headline: Why Zoom became so popular: Its selling points also introduce privacy and security risks.
The app’s main selling point, at least to the broader consumer world, is that it offers free, 40-minute conference calls with up to 100 attendees. It’s easy to use — people don’t need a login to access a meeting — and the interface is relatively intuitive. However, those same features put people at risk.  The Verge
[T]he FBI warned about a rise in cases of ‘Zoom-bombing’ that involved conferences being hijacked to show ‘pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language.’  Newsweek
“Providing a safe and secure remote learning experience for our students is essential, and upon further review of security concerns, schools should move away from using Zoom as soon as possible,” said Danielle Filson, a spokesperson for the New York City Dept. of Education. “There are many new components to remote learning, and we are making real-time decisions in the best interest of our staff and students.”  Tech Crunch

Some good Zoom news

Deadline headline: Lin-Manual Miranda & Hamilton Cast Zoom-bomb Jon Krasinski with Good News Performance
“John Krasinski, with a little help from Lin-Manuel Miranda and some friends, Zoom-reunited the original cast of Broadway’s Hamilton Sunday for a Florida fan whose now-canceled ninth birthday plans were to include a visit to the musical.”  Deadline

Product Hunt compiled a list of fun add-ons you can use with the Zoom App

  • VirtualOffice lets you brand the background of your Zoom calls. Simply select your office, fill in your information and upload your logo.
  • Fireflies is an AI assistant that helps you record, transcribe, and search your Zoom calls all in one place. It also lets you pull up action items, dates, deadlines and metrics after the meeting.
  • Zoom Virtual Backgrounds has a ton of great inspiration for your call backgrounds.
  • Goodnight Zoom connects kids (and their parents) across the U.S. to isolated seniors right now.
  • Krisp is a browser extension that uses AI to cancel background noise and echoes on your Zoom calls.
  • Snap Camera lets you apply Lenses to your face while using your computer's webcam.

Source: Product Hunt Daily

We reached out to 10 professionals to get their Zoom video suggestions:

1. Keep Your Meeting ID Private

Calloway Cook headshot
Calloway Cook

Calloway Cook, President at Illuminate Labs

Share your Zoom Meeting ID with your team privately, and be sure to use a different Meeting ID for each meeting. Publicly posting a Meeting ID (on Twitter for example) significantly increases the risk of the meeting being hacked. People looking to bomb Zoom meetings can easily use the search functions on social media platforms like Twitter to find publicly available Zoom Meeting IDs, and then join the meetings.

By sending the Meeting ID information privately, one of your team members would have to leak it to a hacker for the meeting to be bombed, which is very unlikely.

2. Use a digital background

Jeff Romero headshot
Jeff Romero

Jeff Romero, Co-Founder of Octiv Digital

One of my favorite tips for Zoom is to use a digital background. This option gives users the ability to turn their living room couch into a professional looking office space or into something fun that is guaranteed to get a laugh.

Jump into settings > virtual background to enable this feature. It does require a bit of processing power, but most modern computers can handle it. 

3. Take advantage of Zoom's built-in features

Seth Fleischauer headshot
Seth Fleischauer

Seth Fleischauer, Founder of Banyan Global Learning

For ease of use:

  • Turn on your personal meeting ID, so frequent contacts always know where to find you
  • Use headphones to prevent audio feedback issues
  • Train everyone on the call to mute themselves when not talking (or have a host who is adept at muting - ambient noise can ruin a call)

For privacy:

  • Make it so only the host can screen share
  • Require a password
  • Turn on the waiting room feature

4. Keep attendees engaged

Saurabh Jindal headshot
Saurabh Jindal

Saurabh Jindal, Travel Talk

The meeting hosts can activate the attention tracking feature which alerts the host if the attendee's Zoom app (either on mobile or desktop) is not in focus for more than 30 seconds.

This feature only works if the screen sharing mode is on during the call.

5. Learn keyboard shortcuts to save time

Nidhi Joshi headshot
Nidhi Joshi

Nidhi Joshi

If you are using Zoom more than once a week, there are some keyboard shortcuts worth learning to save you time:

  • Cmd+I (Mac) or Alt+I (Windows) to jump to the invite window, where you can copy the meeting link or send invitations to others via email
  • Cmd+Ctrl+M (Mac) or Alt+M (Windows) - when you are the meeting host - to mute everyone else on the line
  • Cmd+Shift+S (Mac) or Alt+Shift+S (Windows) to share your screen

6. Be wary of sharing your Zoom meeting links on social media

Alex Axoury headshot
Alex Azoury

Alex Azoury, CEO Homegrounds.co

Refrain from sharing links to Zoom meetings on social media. Rather, invite attendees from within the software (or directly via an email invite).

Lock meetings once all participants have jumped on the call. However, if a participant takes a momentary exit, be sure to unlock the meeting to let them back in before re-locking it.

Another security measure is to only allow the presenter to share their screen, to prevent possible interruptions.

Students should take a practice Zoom session to familiarize themselves with the controls. Follow etiquette for questions. Use the raise hand option to request permission to ask a question.

7. Work to minimize distractions

Plamen Beshkov

Plamen Beshkov, Innolab42

Be aware of your movement and your speech

Zoom is great for connecting with many people at once, but frankly it can be slow and laggy sometimes. That is why I always try to be aware of my movements and hand gestures so everything can look seamless and not blurry. A good tip to achieve this is to just minimize hand gestures if you don’t really need them.

The pace of your speech is another thing you need to consider. Try to talk slow, clear and loud, with enough pauses between sentences, so nobody will have trouble understanding you.

Look your best

This is something that applies to all video conference tools, but especially to Zoom. I have noticed that Zoom has a better video quality and the image looks closer to reality than other tools I have used. That is why I always take a shower, brush my hair, and put on my nice clothes when I am about to have a video conference.

Find the perfect spot

It is crucial to think about and find the perfect place in your room to place your camera. Think about which part of your surroundings will look best on camera and where you have the most natural light. Avoid positioning yourself against direct sunlight, as you won’t be visible to the other members of the video conference.

It is also important to think about how quiet the room where you are positioned is, so you minimize the distractions.

8. Record the Zoom calls (with permission)

Jovan Milenkovic headshot
Jovan Milenkovic

Jovan Milenkovic, Co-Founder of KommandoTech

Especially useful to students, Zoom’s recording call feature will help you get the most out of your meetings. If you have a study meeting, you’ll be able to listen to the recording and not miss any details.

To start recording:type Alt+R (Windows) or Cmd+Shift+R (Mac). If you need to pause or resume recording, press Alt+P (Windows) or Cmd+Shift+P (Mac).

9. Respect the presenter

Billy Boughey headshot
Billy Boughey

Billy Boughey, Founder of Elevate Experiences

Students should be aware that speaker view is different from the gallery view. Muting yourself and turning your video on and off are all features you should be familiar with as a Zoom user. Take time to practice or ask questions beforehand so you are well informed prior to the call start. 

Use the chat to enhance the conversation, not distract from it. Too often I see people use the chat for funny comments or saying "hi" to everyone in the group, but that can distract the main speaker from sharing or knowing when real questions come through. The chat can help you add your thoughts without needing to turn on your video or audio, but avoid posting comments or anything else that distracts from the conversation. 

Raise your hand or indicate in chat when you want to share a thought or question. The host can choose to keep everyone muted, but if you have something you'd like to say, indicate that in chat or raise your hand (with your video on). If the host calls on you, then you can unmute yourself and share. 

10. Use the whiteboard feature in virtual classrooms

Norhanie Pangulima headshot
Norhanie Pangulima

Norhanie Pangulima

Take advantage of the Whiteboard feature. Zoom's whiteboard is perfect for class demonstrations, it's a virtual board that actually replaces the boards students use in the traditional classroom set-up.

It will make both the student’s and the teacher’s lives easier through improving online collaboration.


While the Zoom app provides a fun way for students and adults to stay connected, hosts and users can take a few extra steps to help everyone stay safe. Parents should also help students be aware of the safety concerns surrounding the app and take necessary precautions to keep their students safe online.

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