Navigating the School Bus Safety Zone

School_Bus_SafetyOctober is National School Bus Safety Month. Learn more at

Teaching students about how to be safe while using school bus transportation is pivotal to reducing the amount of unnecessary injuries and deaths that occur each year. The major problem with school buses are that students that are putting themselves in what are commonly known as “danger zones”. Those zones are anywhere that the bus driver or other vehicles cannot see the student. The general rule is that anything ten feet or closer to the bus is a “danger zone”. However, asking a child to “guess” what danger zones are or to estimate 10 feet is not the answer. Schools and parents need to regularly show the students specifically where they need added caution.

Boys ages 5-7 are statistically most likely to be injured. Why? They are shorter and cannot see over obstacles. They are sometimes more aggressive and rush to be the first on or off the bus. Also, with such a tall and long vehicle, there are many opportunities for a child to hide in a place when drivers cannot see them. This commonly occurs when a student drops an item that rolls under the bus, or is distracted.

If you’re student transfers to a new school or is riding the bus for the first time, always ask the school to have a representative review the school and pedestrian safety rules. What you don’t know can hurt you!

For drivers:

Drivers need to understand the blind spots that come with the size of the bus and the inability of exterior mirrors to view everything that is happening around it. Common areas that children can conceal themselves in include the exterior of the bus, beneath the rear window, in the front of the bus, below the windshield and in front of the grille; and anywhere under the bus. Due to the hazard that these areas pose, in the event that the bus starts to move, drivers need to make extra efforts to ensure that no child is in these areas when it is time to depart.

For students:

The area directly surrounding the bus for 10 feet on all sides is called the “Danger Zone”. While in this zone, the risk of being injured is greatest. Students need to minimize the amount of time that they are in the “Danger Zone” by asking an adult for help in the event that they lose an item near the bus, and ensuring that they stay at a safe distance away from the bus unless directed to enter or exit. Students need to realize that drivers are unable to see them when they are at certain spots around or under the bus, and to look out for their own safety instead of relying on the potentially absent attention of others.

Here are some rules that should be included in any effort to reduce students from being injured while walking to or from the bus:

  1. Walk safely to the bus stop and stay well away from the street.
  2. Arrive at the bus stop 5 to 10 minutes before bus time. Rushing at the last minute increases the risk of a pedestrian injury.
  3. When waiting, keep yourself and your belongings out of the road and away from traffic.
  4. Don’t run between parked cars and buses. BE VISIBLE TO OTHER DRIVERS.
  5. Never move towards the bus until it has stopped and the driver opens the door.
  6. Stay 10 feet away from the front or back end of the bus so that the driver can see you.
  7. Wait for the driver to signal you to board the bus.
  8. Before stepping off the curb to board the bus, look left and right to make sure your path to the bus is clear, especially if the bus is stopped away from the curb.
  9. Check that drawstrings, backpack straps, scarves and loose clothing cannot get caught on the bus handrail, door, or the seats.
  10. Use the handrail when entering the bus.
  11. Never push or shove other students.

Additionally, I want to give you some incentive to think about your own children’s safety; especially if you have boys between 5 and 9. One fifth of all children killed in traffic accidents are between the ages of 5 and 9 and were pedestrians (most fatalities were among boys). Also, be aware that the most dangerous times for fatal accidents among young pedestrians is between noon and 8PM at locations other than intersections.

When it comes to intersections, I would ask you to teach your children that a green light does NOT mean it’s safe to cross the street! As adults, we have all seen people run a red light and/or barely stop on red to make a right turn.

The only thing a green light should mean to your young pedestrian is that it’s time to look LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT for traffic, and cross ONLY if it is safe to do so. Also, don’t follow the crowd when stepping off the curb to cross the street unless you are 100% sure it’s safe to cross. Don’t depend on the crowd or another child; trust your own eyes before stepping off the curb.

Crosswalks are another place that (like green lights) give young pedestrians a false sense of safety. Just because there is a cross walk, or the “Walk Sign” is flashing, is not a guarantee that cars will stop for your child. Please make sure they know this.

Thank you for taking the time to review this important information, and please review these other free resources I have selected for you to keep your kids safe as pedestrians:

Choose Safer Walking and Bicycling Routes

Walkability Checklist in English

Walkability checklist in Spanish

Child Pedestrian Tip Sheet 


Tips for a Safe (and Fun!) Halloween

Halloween_SafetyHalloween is just a couple days away and your kids are probably still trying to assemble their costumes and follow the latest trends.

One of those with potentially scary consequences is the use of non-prescriptive colored contact lenses.  It may seem like a lot of fun to turn your trick-or-treater from an ordinary ghost or goblin into a vampire, a princess with pink eyes, or even a quarterback featuring his favorite team logo on his lenses, but it is actually a very dangerous idea.

Contact lenses are medical devices. They are not meant to be a cosmetic feature and it is actually against the law to sell them without a prescription. The Food and Drug Administration has a campaign cautioning consumers against the use of decorative lenses warning that, “a poor fit can cause serious eye damage, including scratches on the cornea, corneal infection, conjunctivitis, decreased vision and blindness.”

You can add a lot of great embellishments to your child’s costume without adding risk, but be sure to also follow some basic tips:

  • Make your child visible by choosing light colored costumes.
  • Take the extra step of attaching reflective tape and giving him or her a flashlight.  Even if they are staying on the sidewalk, many homes turn the lights down to emphasize their Halloween spirit for the night.
  • Check the fit of your child’s costume.  If your child is wearing a mask, be sure it doesn’t block his or her vision.
  • Be sure your child’s costume doesn’t drag on the ground and your child can walk freely up and down steps without tripping.
  • Additionally, give your child a treat he or she can enjoy while trick-or-treating and instruct them not to open any treats until you are able to examine them.
  • Be sure your child is trick-or-treating in a group. Instruct them to stay together and not to enter any home.
  • Keep in touch with your child and give him or her a cell phone.  Program it with your phone number so he or she can reach you easily and quickly.

Don’t forget to have fun!  For more information on keeping your child safe visit

Jamie is currently the Executive Director of The Safety Institute  The Safety Institute examines areas of injury prevention and product safety across a broad spectrum.  The Institute bases its plans and priorities on issues that require greater study and emphasis, as well as those which may be underserved by other organizations and advocates.  Jamie authored two parenting and safety books, The Baby Rules: The Insiders Guide to Raising Your Parents and The Consumer Reports Guide to Childproofing and Safety and successfully fought for safety legislation on Capitol Hill.

Protect Your Child from the Flu

The Flu I.Q. widget is an interactive quiz to test your flu knowledge. The end of October often means one thing to children and families: Halloween. But it’s hard to enjoy costumes and candy if you’re stuck in bed with the flu. Seasonal influenza usually begins to increase in October, most commonly peaks between December and February, and can continue as late as May. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older receive a flu vaccination every year. If you or your loved ones have not gotten a flu vaccine yet, now is the time!

Sadly, about 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized because of flu complications each year. Even older children, particularly those with chronic diseases such as asthma, are at high risk for developing serious complications from the flu, like pneumonia. Schools are prone to flu outbreaks. School-age children often catch the virus because they have poorer hygiene and are in close contact with one another. When children are not vaccinated, they are more likely to get the flu and spread it to others in their classroom and community.

New vaccination guidelines from CDC aim to ensure your children receive the best protection available for their age group. CDC now recommends the nasal spray flu vaccine for healthy* children 2 through 8 years old who have no contraindications to that vaccine. However, if the nasal spray vaccine is not immediately available, do not hesitate to get the flu shot for your child. Some children 6 months through 8 years of age need two doses of flu vaccine. The first dose “primes” the immune system and the second dose—which should be given at least 28 days after the first—provides immune protection. Getting only one dose when your child actually needs two provides reduced or no protection, so be sure to get the second dose if it’s recommended. Speak with your pediatric health care provider to find out whether two doses are recommended for your child.

The CDC recommendation for yearly flu vaccination does not only apply to children. As a parent or caregiver, you should get a flu vaccine and make sure that others who have close contact with your children also get vaccinated each year. In addition, CDC encourages your family to take everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs like flu and other respiratory viruses like enterovirus D68, which has been causing severe illness in many children, especially those with asthma, this year.

Help your trick-or-treaters stay healthy this season and ask your child’s health care professional about flu vaccines today!

*“Healthy” in this instance refers to children 2 years through 8 years old who do not have an underlying medical condition that predisposes them to influenza complications.

Learning to Use Technology Like Your Teen

Denise is the Program Manager at the Family Online Safety Institute. Reposted from

Teen_CellPhoneNow that school is out, turn the tables and let your kids be the teacher. If you are like most parents, you are amazed at how adept your teens and even young kids are at employing all aspects of the latest technologies. How is it that they take to it so quickly and we as parents are left asking, “what are you doing with all that lightning fast thumb typing?” Well, why not take advantage of the young expert in your home? Ask your kids what their favorite websites or apps are and why. Then ask them for a tutorial in how to use them. You know your phone can do a lot more than what you use it for, so get a free class in the comfort of your own home. You may just learn something new and soon wonder how you ever managed to live without some of your kid’s favorite apps.

As adults, we likely use our smartphones for utilitarian oriented tasks like confirming a reservation, checking the weather or (gasp!) making a phone call. At the same time, our kids and teens are using their tablets and phones in all aspects of their lives. They connect with friends through social media, check the latest sports scores, watch TV, listen to music and play in virtual worlds. All of this screen time can seem like your child is being anti-social, but actually, many of these activities are highly social and interactive. I asked around and got a wide range of fun and useful applications and, having tried many of them, can see how easy it is to get hooked.

Stay Social With Fun Apps

While preparing for this blog post, I was lucky that my niece and her friends were in the airport getting ready to head off for a high school-sponsored trip overseas.  I was able to get some great responses for what it was they were doing on their phones while waiting for their flight. Snapchat came up a number of times. “My favorite app is Snapchat because it’s a quick way to allow my friends to see what I’m doing, and I like being able to communicate with my friends through pictures rather than boring text messages sometimes!” For those who don’t know, Snapchat is a photo messaging application where users can take photos, make videos and add text or drawings and send them to their chosen contacts. Kids use this application as a quick and fun way to check in with friends without having to write a formal note. It can be just a funny photo sent to brighten someone’s day.  Of course, social media is still alive and well. As one responder put it, “I like Twitter because I enjoy looking at other peoples tweets and it’s a good way to get ahold of people because everyone is using it in today’s society!”

Enjoy Entertainment On The Go

Your kids also use their devices for entertainment. Popular streaming services like Beats and Pandora are a favorite of teens who love music. “My favorite app is Spotify because you can listen to whatever music you want for a small fee. I also like it because it’s extremely convenient and you can use it on the go,” wrote one of my niece’s friends. Kids and teens also watch their favorite shows entirely differently than we do. The days of appointment viewing have been dead since the DVR was introduced, and now kids and teens take their shows with them wherever they go. My 10-year-old daughter watches her favorite shows on the Watch Disney Channel App.  Others like to have more choice, “I enjoy using the Netflix app because there’s a variety of movies and shows to choose from and all of my favorites are on there. Its quick access and I use it all the time.” Almost every kid I know watches a lot of YouTube as well. There is a wide range of genres to choose from, such as the newest One Direction music video to the latest amazing pet trick. There is something for just about any viewer.

My middle school son and his friends are avid sports fans. They have the ESPN Sportscenter, NBA, and NFL apps on their devices. They also play in Fantasy Leagues. They invite their friends into a division, trade players, and update their team rosters from their phones. It is a fun and interactive way for them to stay engaged with whatever professional sport is in season. Plus, there are bragging rights for creating an undefeated team.

Visit Virtual Worlds With Friends

My 7-year-old son loves Minecraft. Minecraft is a hugely popular game where players use blocks to create worlds.  Kids can create a building, a farm, a boat, an amusement park or even a whole city, all without making a mess in your living room. Plus, there is an online component where they can invite friends to join in and play along in a virtual world of their own creation and imagination. This game can be highly collaborative and I’ve seen kids work together to build some incredible spaces.  My daughter and her friends like to meet up in online spaces like High School Story or Movie Star Planet where they can create characters, shop together and go to parties. She says it is a fun way to play with her friends when in-person play dates can’t be arranged.

Connect to Family Overseas

Finally, my sister and brother-in-law had to quickly embrace technology with their four kids heading off to college, moving to new cities, and travelling abroad. They use various communication apps to stay in touch with each other from all over the globe. Viber is an app that enables users to text, group text, and talk on their cell phones for free using Wi-Fi access. Viber was a great way for them to stay connected at no added expense. They also use WhatsApp. WhatsApp allows you to exchange text message for free both internationally and stateside. It also requires Wi-Fi, but it will save any unsent messages until you get into Wi-Fi range and will then automatically send and receive any outstanding texts. Finally, Word Lens instantly translates any printed word from one designated language to another using your phone’s camera. Word Lens does not require Wi-Fi so it is a treasure for anyone traveling abroad to translate road signs, menus or maps. It has a limited language base at this time but does include English, Spanish, Italian, French and German.

So the next time you see a group of kids or teens huddled around their devices, take a breath and realize they are staying social and communicative. They just do it in an entirely different, and sometimes more engaging, way than we do. Maybe it’s time for us to learn.

Denise Lisi DeRosa is Program Manager for the Family Online Safety Institute. She is dedicated to empowering families with the tools needed to embrace the current social and digital technologies in meaningful, creative and positive ways. Denise is committed to further develop and promote FOSI’s Platform for Good as a valuable resource for parents.


About National PTA’s #ShareAwesome campaign: National PTA has partnered with LifeLock to share awesome ways families can create an open, evolving conversation about positive, safe decisions when using digital tools. Learn more about #ShareAwesome, the #ShareAwesome contest, and digital safety at

October is Connected Educators Month, which offers highly distributed, diverse, and engaging activities to educators at all levels. The goals of CEM include: getting more educators proficient with social media to improve their practice; deepening and sustaining learning among those already enjoying connection’s benefits; helping schools credential/integrate connected learning into their formal professional development efforts; stimulating and supporting innovation in the field.


Celebrating School Bus Drivers

School Bus DriverOctober is National School Bus Safety Month. Learn more at

The iconic yellow school bus provides many benefits to our nation’s children and to the general public. Those benefits include safety, environmental, economic, energy and academic achievement. The key to the benefits of yellow school bus transportation come in the form of certified school bus drivers operating the nation’s fleet of 480,000 school buses.

School bus drivers are dedicated individuals from a variety of backgrounds who have made it their life’s mission to transport your children to and from school and school related activities safely and efficiently. School bus drivers receive specialized training in student behavior management, student loading and unloading procedures and security and emergency medical procedures. Drivers must comply with extremely high employment standards that include driving record checks, criminal background investigations and pre-employment and random drug and alcohol testing.

School bus drivers are tested, trained and retested. They are trained professionals with immense responsibility. Our communities have trusted school bus drivers for generations, and with that trust, drivers have made taking the school bus the safest way to get to and from school.

School Bus Safety Month is the ideal opportunity to celebrate school bus drivers. October is the perfect opportunity for parents, students, educators, and administrators to show their appreciation for those responsible for getting our children safely to and from school every single day. Thanking your driver doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Here are some ideas for how to show your driver how much you appreciate all that they do for our children:

  1. Have students create posters thanking bus drivers.
  2. Have students make thank-you cards to hand to bus drivers.
  3. Send press releases to local newspapers announcing school bus driver appreciation.
  4. Place a large, thank-you banner on the side of the campus access road.
  5. Have a breakfast or luncheon for bus drivers.
  6. Make thank-you announcements over transportation departments’ radio systems.
  7. Make thank-you announcements over the schools’ public address systems.
  8. Leave a thank-you letter on each bus.
  9. Have a school assembly to emphasize school-bus safety and to recognize school bus drivers.
  10. Make a “goodie bag” for your bus driver
  11. Use social media to spread the word. Ask your students to get permission to  take a photo of their favorite driver and post it to Facebook and other social media sites with a positive comment.
  12. Have your school’s PTA President or other school official present the driver with a certificate of appreciation. You can download a certificate of appreciation by clicking here.


Every Child in Focus: Engaging and Supporting Hispanic Families

Tina Hartman is the Fort Wayne Area PTA Council President.

Fort Wayne Area PTA Council in Fort Wayne, Indiana had the distinct pleasure of being invited to participate in the 2nd Annual Hispanic Education Fair. The planning committee asked us to provide two 30-minute breakout sessions on PTA and Family Engagement. We were very excited about the prospect because we have a Spanish Immersion Elementary School and a high population of Spanish-speaking families across our district. The challenging part was that we recognized our Board’s lack of diversity in this area.

FWPTA1We called on Indiana PTA for Spanish and English material that we could have available for parents and students. We also are extremely blessed to be part of National PTA because I reached out to our National Service Representative, Nore Hare, and she put me in touch with Armen Alvarez, who manages Multicultural Membership Development for the association. After a couple of conference calls and a few emails, we were ready to go with a brand new presentation from National PTA. Armen also graciously took time to travel to Fort Wayne to present the breakout sessions.

The day of the event—October 11—was exciting because we were reaching a more diverse group of families, and we learned so much about their culture along the way. While Armen was busy networking, Indiana PTA President-Elect Theresa Distelrath and I remained at the PTA table to talk with families. We quickly realized that we should have had more than one Spanish-speaking leader with us because we had no idea what the students were translating to their parents. Armen did a wonderful job presenting the Spanish version of the session. Theresa and I laughed and clapped along with the families even though we could only pick out a few words here and there.

FWPTA2Before leaving, we met with the organizer of the event.  He expressed some of his struggles in planning the event because last year 350 parents and students attended and this year attendance was down. We quickly made some suggestions of who could be contacted within Fort Wayne Community Schools for support in sharing information about the event with families. We also discussed sponsorship opportunities for the event next year along with advertisements in el Mexicano newspaper for PTA. As a result of our PTA’s participation in the event, I believe we have created a tremendous partnership and some great leads on Hispanic-owned businesses in our area. We have a work plan in place for continued outreach starting in the Fort Wayne area and hopefully expanding to other areas of Indiana.

Students around the country celebrate Food Day

Lilia Smelkova is Food Day Campaign Manager at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Food Day 1

A student in Margate, Florida, participates in a Food Day challenge. Photo Credit: FLIPANY

Thousands of schools around the country are celebrating the fourth annual Food Day this week. Food Day inspires Americans to change their diets and our food policies. Every October 24, events all around the country bring Americans together to celebrate and enjoy real food.

Food Day is an opportunity to resolve to make changes in our own diets and to take action to solve food-related problems in our communities at the local, state, and national level.

All over America, activities are happening to ensure that kids are as familiar with vegetable peelers, cutting boards, and mixing bowls as they are with iPads, iPhones, and video games. Thousands of kids will discover a new vegetable, chop their first salad, or make their first soup on October 24.

  • More than 650,000 students in Chicago, Cleveland, Des Moines, Detroit, Minneapolis, Omaha, and St. Paul will enjoy a locally sourced meal of chicken drumsticks, potatoes or corn, and apples in celebration of Food Day as part of a partnership with School Food Focus.
  • In California, 15 school districts from around the state including Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, and San Francisco will serve a lunch made entirely with California food. This program, called California Thursdays, is organized by the Center for Ecoliteracy and launched this week in celebration of Food Day.
  • In Arkansas, over 100 schools are taking the Breakfast Apple Crunch Challenge facilitated by the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance and Share Our Strength.

The most important ingredient in Food Day is you! Use October 24 to start—or celebrate—eating a healthier diet and putting your family’s diet on track.

Food Day 2

Students at Oxford Elementary show off artistic fruits and vegetables they created. Photo Credit: Sharon McNeil

Lilia Smelkova is Food Day Campaign Manager at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Prior to joining Food Day, she worked for Slow Food International in Italy where she directed the launch of the first European network of sustainable school cafeterias. She holds a Master’s in environment and development from King’s College London, and a certificate in environmental management from UC Berkeley, where she co-authored a nutrition education study. Follow her on Twitter: @LiliaSmelkova.

Blog homepage photo credit:
Mott Haven Academy students, New York City, in the school’s rooftop learning garden.
photo credit: Philip J. Greenberg


Now Accepting 2015 Advocacy Awards Nominations

advocacyawardsNominations for the 2015 Advocacy Awards are now being accepted! If you know of an outstanding youth or individual PTA advocate, or know of a local unit or state level PTA that has done great advocacy work, please nominate them to receive an award for their efforts from National PTA. Winners will be announced in January, and will receive their awards at the 2015 Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.

Like in previous years, advocates may apply themselves in the youth and individual categories, and the winners in these categories will get the opportunity to act as advocacy ambassadors for PTA.

Nominations must be for efforts made in the last year and are due by 12 a.m. EDT on Dec. 19. Please visit the following links below to view and fill out nomination forms. You can also find these forms and more information about the 2015 Advocacy Awards at


Shirley Igo Advocate of the Year Ambassador Award
The 2015 Shirley Igo Advocate of the Year Ambassador Award will be presented to an individual PTA member, who through their leadership and advocacy efforts, affected federal policy priorities within PTA’s annual Public Policy Agenda. Shirley was a model of public service and volunteerism throughout her life. She was an impassioned and compassionate leader, dedicated to moving PTA forward and committed to ensuring that others would follow.

Outstanding Youth Advocacy Ambassador Award
The 2015 Outstanding Youth Advocacy Ambassador Award will be presented to a young person—who—through his or her creativity, leadership, and dedication, has positively affected policy or change in his or her school or community in a way that aligns with PTA’s mission and goals.

Local/District/Regional PTA Outstanding Advocacy Award
The 2015 Local Outstanding Advocacy Award will be presented to a local, district, council or regional PTA that, through their dedication, leadership and efforts positively affected legislative and/or regulatory policy compatible with PTA’s mission and goals. These efforts must include an education/learning component for PTA members and the community-at-large. Working with multiple organizations or coalitions through grassroots collaboration is preferred.

State PTA Outstanding Advocacy Award
The 2015 State Outstanding Advocacy Award will be presented to a state PTA that, through their dedication, leadership and efforts positively affected legislative and/or regulatory policy compatible with PTA’s mission and goals. These efforts must be based on a statewide issue, involve working with multiple organizations or coalitions through grassroots collaboration, and contain a public awareness/advocacy training component for PTA members and the community at large.

Matthew L. Evans is an advocacy coordinator for National PTA.

The Art of Communicating Effectively

With co-author Ethan Clark

ListeningListening is the most important part of communication. Try this listening activity to identify the themes presented in this Reflections award winning music composition. Click here to listen to “Becoming a Piano Teacher” by Emily DeNucci. Actively listen for three movements and see if you can recognize the message that Emily is communicating through music.

Now, check on how well you listened! When you heard “Becoming a Piano Teacher” by Emily DeNucci, did you hear all three movements? Check your listening skills with her artist statement below.

“This music piece is about is that there’s a little girls, Rosalina, who loves to play the piano, and when she grows up she wants to be a piano teacher.  So the first part of my piano song is that she believes she can do it and she practices piano more and more.  The second part of my song is that Rosalina, every night dreams about being a piano teacher.  The third part of my song is that when she grows up she really does become a piano teacher, and she knew, all that time, that her teacher inspired her.” – Emily DeNucci

Like listening to a musical composition, parents and teachers need many opportunities to engage in two-way dialogue so that they can better understand each other’s perspectives and how to support student success.

Listening is the First Step for Communicating Effectively at School

The National Standards for Family-School Partnerships provide a framework for strengthening family engagement programs to focus on what parents, schools and communities can do together to support student success. Communicating Effectively with school staff about student learning is the second of the six standards.

The goal for Communicating Effectively is sharing information between school and families. Families, the community, and school staff should communicate in numerous interactive ways, both formally and informally. After all, communication is the key to building trusting relationships, and relationships are the key to engaging all families! Indicators for this standard include providing information on current issues and facilitating connections among families.

Consider how your PTA can encourage positive, two-way dialogue between parents and school staff at these arts education events:

  • Invite families and school staff to student exhibitions and performances.
  • Recognize student achievement in the arts at school staff and school board meetings.
  • Host a student artist reception and facilitate introductions at back to school night and during activity fairs.
  • Encourage school leaders to volunteer at a fundraiser supporting afterschool arts activities.

The arts — and the National PTA Reflections® program, in particular — can be a valuable tool for building stronger partnerships in your school community and meeting the Standard for Communicating Effectively.

We challenge you to use the arts as a listening tool – not just for music, but for creating opportunities for families and teachers to connect. And the next time your PTA and school staff work together, take a photo and upload it to your favorite social media site like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can use the hashtag #StartTheArts to expand the conversation among families, school staff, and community partners.

Read more to learn about each of the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships and the steps you can take with PTA Reflections to meet them. Also, consider enrolling in the National PTA School of Excellence program to gain new ways to engage all families in each of the standards. National PTA School of Excellence is a recognition program that supports and celebrates partnerships between PTAs and schools to enrich the educational experience and overall well-being for all students. Contact or call (800)307-4782 for more info.

Second in a series of blog posts co-authored by National PTA’s Senior Manager of Family Engagement Sherri Wilson & Manager of Arts in Education Ethan Clark.


Tips For Getting Your Tween A Cell Phone

Denise is the Program Manager at the Family Online Safety Institute. Reposted from

Tween_CellphoneRemember when a cell phone was a luxury? Not any more. It seems as if everyone has a cell phone. So is it any wonder your kids want one? We know your kids are ready to get their hands on a phone. But are you ready?

Use these 5 tips to get prepared for your next adventure in parenting.

  1. Research the best cellular plans. Many cellular providers offer family plans and additional phone lines for a discount. You should explore your options and determine which plan is best for you and your needs. Verizon’s FamilyBase plan helps parents manage and control their kids phone usage. AT&T and Sprint offer great family value plans as well. A word of advice however, be sure you have a robust texting plan. Even with smartphones, which kids can use to access all kinds of social networking and communication apps, texting is far and away the number one way kids stay in touch with one another.
  2. Understand parental controls options.  There are several kid-friendly phones on the market that offer varying degrees of parental control and limited features. You may want to give your child a simple cell phone to start rather than an Internet-connected smartphone. Either way, find out what features are available to help you manage your child’s usage, privacy, and safety. You may also want to have the phone be GPS enabled so you know where your child is but note that several popular apps may give away your child’s location.  Keep this in mind and learn to adjust the settings accordingly.
  3. Know your child. You need to consider how responsible your child is. If your son/daughter is allowed to go places with friends unsupervised then you might want to give him/her a phone as a way to keep in touch. Then set the rules. For example, you may insist that they will answer when a parent or sibling calls and/or reply to texts from parents promptly. Be clear that this is expected and non-negotiable.
  4. Agree to terms. Discuss limits on texting, App purchases, In-App purchases and time limits. Many schools require students to turn off their cell phones during the school day so make sure your child follows school rules as well. At home, agree to a turn off time in the evening. And remind your child to put the phone away during face-to-face conversations and family meal times. Use our Smartphone Safety Contract as a way to get the conversation started.
  5. Monitor or Mentor? Once you’ve determined that your child is responsible enough to have a phone, guide them on how to use it responsibly and then trust them to do so. You may be tempted to spy on your child, but that could end up backfiring. You need to have some boundaries and mutual respect. Think about it this way, you do not have access to every conversation your child has at school, so don’t be tempted by technological abilities to spy when it is not necessary. Tell your child that you will be checking in periodically to make sure that they are using their phone responsibly. But be upfront about it, you don’t want to violate your child’s trust.
    Getting your child a phone is a big step for both of you. Talk to them about your expectations for proper use of the phone. Then let them prove to you how responsible they can be. They will appreciate your confidence in them, and may just surprise you in the process.

Denise Lisi DeRosa is Program Manager for the Family Online Safety Institute. She is dedicated to empowering families with the tools needed to embrace the current social and digital technologies in meaningful, creative and positive ways. Denise is committed to further develop and promote FOSI’s Platform for Good as a valuable resource for parents.


About National PTA’s #ShareAwesome campaign: National PTA has partnered with LifeLock to share awesome ways families can create an open, evolving conversation about positive, safe decisions when using digital tools. Learn more about #ShareAwesome, the #ShareAwesome contest, and digital safety at

October is Connected Educators Month, which offers highly distributed, diverse, and engaging activities to educators at all levels. The goals of CEM include: getting more educators proficient with social media to improve their practice; deepening and sustaining learning among those already enjoying connection’s benefits; helping schools credential/integrate connected learning into their formal professional development efforts; stimulating and supporting innovation in the field.