Organizing PTA Parent-Education seminars

Part of my responsibility as first vice president of my daughter’s elementary school parent-teacher association (PTA) is to bring in speakers to help educate the parents. Last year, I brought a speaker on cyber-bullying. My goal this year was to bring in two different speakers.

One of the fifth-grade teachers at her school is also member-at-large for the Texas Parent-Teacher Association. For the past few years, he has given a speech about Maximizing Parent-Teacher Conferences at the annual statewide leadership conference. But he has always told those of us who attend from his school that we shouldn’t attend his speech as he can always give us that information at a different time.

Last year, I wanted to get him to give this speech at our school but I approached him in the middle of September and we couldn’t get anything planned before conferences started in the middle of October. Instead, I had to settle for him writing a two-sided flyer that gave parents tips. (Check out my post about it here.)

This year I approached Mr. Shelby in August, and we scheduled his speech for the end of September as conferences begin mid-October. As with any presentation, you can plan and advertise it but getting a full house is a different matter. I think even Mr. Shelby was worried about getting people to show up. We had 26 parents attend which nicely filled up our library tables but is a real small percentage of the parents who have children attending the school.

The main point of his presentation is that the parent-teacher conference is not the first time you should see your child’s grades. In our school district, you can go online and check grades on homework and tests plus there are always papers coming home. There really should be no surprises.

The parent-teacher conference is a time to work with the teacher in deciding what areas your child needs to work on. Even good kids have something that can challenge them or maybe there is something that can push them to achieve more.

The second speaker I plan to bring in will speak on children and internet safety. I will be going through the Texas PTA’s Ready, Set, Achieve program since the CyberBullying one last year was so well done.

Internet safety is an important topic in our technology-driven society and with the ever changing technology and apps out there, I don’t think parents can attend too many of these talks. In fact the middle school just brought in someone from Homeland Security to talk about the same thing.

It was a good speech though most of the information covered was stuff that I have heard before. He recommended that you check your kids’ phones weekly. You should know who they are talking to just as you would want to know who their friends are if they were meeting with them in person.

He recommended the website netsmartz.org as a way for parents and kids to learn more about online safety and the dangers of posting information online. To report Cyber Bullying, he recommended Cybertipline.org. Both websites are hosted by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

I’m looking forward to my January speaker and if he/she provides any useful websites or information, I will certainly write a post about it.

Blocking websites and adding restrictions to my kids iPads

Last Christmas, we bought both kids iPad minis. My husband set the up with backgrounds, apps, music and movies each kid would like before we wrapped them.

The kids were thrilled with their gift and quickly learned how to use them, including downloading new apps and watching YouTube.

Now when my husband said that he set them up, I assumed he had put safeguards and restrictions on them. Imagine my dismay when my mom reported to me that the video my 7-year-old mentioned the f-word.

A brief search online told me how to check/set-up restriction on their iPads (which I learned my husband hadn’t done.)

iPad-allow-changes_thumbYou basically got Settings -> Restrictions. It has you enter a four-number password, and then you can select the settings you want applied such as Movie ratings and age limit recommendation for the apps.

Now many of the sites talk about restricting access to many things – Safari (web browser), Facetime, iTunes, disable app downloading and even turning off Wifi. While I don’t think all these things need to be done for my kids (ages 7 and 10), I can see parents who might want to add these restrictions.

I however, want my kids to be able to use the Internet as Jase has used his iPad to do homework before. And both kids watch Netflix, so I wouldn’t want to turn off the Internet.

The setting changes I made that first day were quickly noticed by the kids as it deleted the YouTube app as that was now out of their age range. We installed the Kids YouTube app instead which is supposed to help restrict what material they can see.

In my search for adding restrictions/parental controls to their iPads, I also came across what sounded like a great app from McGruff that would filter and block specific types of websites in their Internet searches but sadly, it was no longer available.

iPhone_Portrait_mobicip_squaredThat is when we found Mobicip Safe Browser. With this, you disable the standard Safari browser that comes with iPads (and iPhones) and installs their browser. Now if the kids typed in a word to search such as sex, it tells them those websites are restricted. The same works on YouTube run through this browser. You do have the option with the premium version to decide which website to allow so you can allow them to do their research on sex education while being blocked from the porn sites.

We just installed this browser, so I don’t have a lot of feedback on it from the kids yet. With the premium version, you are supposed to also get reports on which sites they have viewed. We have not tried the premium version yet, but it is only $40 a year so might be worth at least trying the seven-day  free trial version.

I am feeling better about the safety controls we have added to their iPads and wish we had done them sooner. I know my kids are good but especially with YouTube had been worried that inappropriate videos might come up during a search. Now hopefully that won’t happen.