Be Internet Awesome: Host a PTA Connected Workshop This Year!

The 2018-2019 school year officially launched our PTA Connected digital initiative. We had 200 PTAs across the country commit to hosting a Be Internet Awesome workshop. Was it a success? Two of our grantees gave us the inside scoop on what it’s like to be a Be Internet Awesome grantee.

Erin Hill, a PTA leader at Pivik PTA in Plum, Pa., shared, “When our PTA was awarded the Be Internet Awesome grant from the National PTA and Google, our principal had told us the school district had held something similar a few years previous and only a few people showed up. The bar was set! We were going to get more than that this time…I hoped.”

Their principal’s main concern was that younger kids wouldn’t find this program useful, but as Erin points out, “kids using technology, getting on the internet, and even using social media are getting younger and younger. Our school… is K-4, and our kids are unfortunately at an age where they’re being exposed to some unpleasant things on the internet while their parents—me included—may think they have a few years before talks of responsible usage need to happen. When I saw this opportunity, I knew we had to apply.”

Each grantee received $1,000 to put on their event. What’s the best way to spend that grant money? Take a tip from Erin: “During the planning we decided to put most of the award money towards the food and giveaways. We figured a nicely-catered event with the opportunity for prizes would draw in more people.”

We understand PTA leaders are busy! Erin had some great guidelines for efficient planning and set up, sharing, “We used our cafeteria, which has a large screen where we projected the presentation. We decorated five tables with balloons in the breakout session colors (that corresponded with colored dots on attendees’ name tags), pens, markers, notepads and a large poster board. We allowed attendees to eat first, then after about 45 minutes of arrivals and eating, we had people go to their breakout session table. I had organized attendees into their groups prior to the event.”

Another pro tip from Erin? Get the right—and the right amount—of volunteers. Erin shared, “At our event, there were eight volunteers. We had three people at the check in table, passing out name tags and materials. We had three people handling the catering and food set up. Five of us, including some who helped in the previously-mentioned capacities, ran the breakout sessions. We had a parent volunteer deliver most of the presentation that National PTA and Google provided with the grant materials. We also had our district’s director of information technology present. He was able to provide some nice examples and tips because, one, he knows the technology being used by the kids, and, two, he has young children.”

Promoting your event is key! People need to know about the event and be excited about it. Dana Hansley of Dodge Elementary PTA in East Amherst, N.Y. noted that, “a key to promoting our event beyond the usual PTA route of emails and newsletters was an outreach to all of the teachers in the building with an explanation of the event and a simple graphic with important info like the event date, time and place. The majority of teachers in the building pushed out the graphic provided through their SeeSaw, Class Dojo and Remind accounts to parents. This additional layer of teacher support greatly impacted turnout and added weight to the subject.”

You might be wondering why PTAs are so excited about these digital workshops. Dana put it perfectly, saying, “hosting a Be Internet Awesome tech evening allowed parents an opportunity to talk through what it’s like to raise children in a digitally-connected world. This event empowered parents as they realized they were not alone in their struggles and concerns. They walked away more confident to set healthy boundaries in their households, armed with solid information they gleaned from breakout sessions and from one another.”

The event at Dodge Elementary was in high demand. “Many families who were unable to attend expressed great regret at missing the event, and inquired as to additional events,” stated Dana. “They needn’t worry, as our school principal asked us to do a Be Internet Awesome event twice next school year.”

Applications are now open for grants to host a PTA Connected Be Internet Awesome Family Workshop. Apply today at PTA.org/Grants! Learn more about the PTA Connected Be Internet Awesome Family Workshops at PTA.org/BeInternetAwesome.


About the Authors:

Erin Hill, of Pittsburgh, PA, is chair of multiple PTA committees and was PTA President of Pivik PTA during the 2018-19 school year. She has two children, a fourth grader and kindergartner. Without the internet, she wouldn’t know how to do common core math, what to make for dinner, how to dress, what was happening at school or in the community, or how to get anywhere. The internet, she feels, is such a wonderful tool and opens so many informational doors for anything you could possibly want to know.

Dana Hensley is a PTA Co-President at Dodge Elementary School. She lives with her husband and four children in East Amherst, NY and spends her free time coaching her daughter’s soccer teams. She is a strong proponent of screen time limits for both children and adults and she spends too much time on Twitter. 

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.