An Inside Look at National PTA’s New Digital Safety Initiative

Last week, I visited Texas to help Chapel Hill Preparatory School in Dallas host the first Be Internet Awesome Family Workshop. I’m a new staff member at National PTA, so this was my first opportunity to see PTA members in action. My first impression? PTA parents are dedicated! These parents came ready to be vulnerable—no small feat with the amount of parent-shaming that goes on today—and talk openly about tough parenting issues, provide support for one another and create solutions together.

Families began to trickle in for dinner before the workshop started, allowing people to eat, relax and meet one another. With every activity, parents became more comfortable with each other, letting down their guard to voice their concerns about password security and how to keep their kids safe online. Soraya Gollop, the community liaison for Chapel Hill Prep was elated their PTA was able to put on this event, saying, “Our parents found it really helpful because this is an issue which concerns them. This is a program well worth running.”

What does it take to host an event like the Be Internet Awesome Workshop? Well, National PTA and Google will provide you with all the resources you need to host a successful event. You can visit PTA.org/Connected to find flyers, volunteer forms, an event planning checklist, email templates, sample agendas, evaluation forms and more materials you can use to plan, promote and host the workshop. Our community liaison in Texas noted she, “appreciated the amount of support materials and how clear it was what you needed to do in order to put the workshop on. The results were really fantastic.”

At the close of the event, Chapel Hill’s cafeteria was buzzing with parents continuing conversations on digital safety. Parents were excited and ready to incorporate what they learned with their families.

While we at National PTA have been thrilled with the feedback from the first Be Internet Awesome workshops, we want to make sure we are meeting the needs and learning styles of all families, so we are also working on another event model—our Digital Families Community Events.

During these events, families work together at station-based activity sessions that present real-world scenarios that happen in the connected world. They discuss the best ways to react, who to reach out to for help and how to plan for similar situations before they happen.  Like the workshops, National PTA and Facebook have created easy-to-use materials to assist any PTA with hosting their own event, from start to finish.

These guided conversations give families another way to connect with one another about their lives online, in a positive environment. During the first Digital Families Community Event, a parent attendee commented, “I’m happy to see the things my kids already know. I never would have guessed that they knew to ask permission before posting information online about other people.” It’s that kind of enlightenment and togetherness that makes a hosting digital safety events so vital.

If you are interested in bringing one of these events to your PTA community, make sure to apply for a grant today. Applications can be completed at PTA.org/Grants.

Thanksgiving

There is a crisp breeze coming through my windows today, and the last ofleaves are slowing drifting off the trees……autumn is most certainly here. This is most definitely my favorite time of the year! Harvest season, and especially Thanksgiving, holds special childhood memories for me. Growing up as the daughter of an Arkansas farmer, I learned a greater appreciation for this time of the year. On many a Thanksgiving holidays, my father left the table to return to the field—there were soybeans yet to harvest.  At our Thanksgiving table, we gave thanks not only for our family, but also for a bountiful harvest.

During the next few days, as you reflect on your many blessings, I have a question for you to consider. Are we thankful for our beloved association, for PTA? Our families are what we are most thankful for, of course, but in our everyday lives, we each volunteer a good deal of time and energy to the causes of education, our communities’ schools, and PTA.

Are we thankful for PTA?

Are we thankful for the dream of a few to make a significant difference in the welfare of this nation’s children in a time when women did not even have the right to vote? The National Congress of Mothers put into motion an organization that 115 years later is recognized as the largest volunteer child advocacy association in the United States. We have a rich heritage of advocacy and more importantly, a history of success.

Today, our voice is 5 million strong. We are active in the halls in Congress and in state houses across this country. We can be found at school board and community meetings raising our voices on behalf of those who have no voice. But are we thankful?

There is a quote that perfectly sums up how I feel about this incredible association. It is one that most of you are very familiar with: “A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove….but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” Making a difference for our children—all children—deeply matters to me, and PTA has given me the training, support, and opportunities to fulfill my passion. Am I thankful for PTA? Most definitely!

Over the next few days and weeks as we are busy with holiday preparations, let us give real thought to why we believe in this association. Please take a few moments out of your busy schedule and put those thoughts into words. It is important that as we count our many blessings, we remember to think about the intangible things in our lives that make a difference.  PTA makes a difference each and every day, and you drive the possibility of that difference!

May you and your families enjoy a bountiful Thanksgiving! You are a blessing to the millions of children across this nation and around the world.

Never forget—you are their voice.