Taking Personal Responsibility for Cybersecurity

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month

“The line between our online and offline lives is indistinguishable. In these tech-fueled times, our homes, societal well-being, economic prosperity and nation’s security are impacted by the internet,” the National Cybersecurity Alliance

The truth of that statement has really come home to families and schools in the last 18 months. We have all become increasingly dependent on the internet to learn, to connect with each other, to shop for necessities, and to stay entertained. That makes Cybersecurity Awareness Month an ideal chance for families to learn more about what they can personally do to stay safe online. 

Start With Some Basics for Individuals

It’s easy to think of cybersecurity as a topic that’s just of concern to large companies and organizations, not something individuals can do much about. A central goal of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, however, is to point out all that we can do to keep ourselves and our information safe on the internet.

For example, there’s a list of basic steps you personally can take to keep your information safe, including: 

  • Use long, unique passphrases (they needn’t be complex) that are easy for you to remember and at least 12 characters long. 
  • Use 2-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication (such as a one-time code sent to your mobile device) whenever it’s offered.
  • Don’t click on links or download anything that comes from a stranger or that you were not expecting. 
  • Keep all software on your internet connected devices current to reduce risk of infection from ransomware and malware.
  • Limit what you do on public WiFi and avoid logging in to key accounts like email and financial services. 

These are just some of the recommendations you’ll find in this two-page guide to cybersecurity basics. You can do your part for cybersecurity awareness by sharing it with others in your PTA, your family, and your community.

Resources for Keeping Kids Safe Online

Acknowledging the increase in internet activity brought on by the pandemic, there’s also a Tip Sheet about Online Learning meant for parents and students: Security Tips for K12 Online Learning.

As kids get older, they need to take greater responsibility for their own cybersecurity. Thankfully there are some great resources available to help families have the “tech talk” about online privacy, and even a guide for helping kids learn about cybersecurity careers. These would be great resources to share. 

You’ll find all this and much more at the official Cybersecurity Awareness Month website: Cybersecurity Awareness Month – Stay Safe Online

In addition, National PTA, in collaboration with LifeLock has developed a web-based tool to facilitate parent-child conversations about being responsible with the use of technology. It’s called The Smart Talk.

Six Tips for Building Your Local PTA Leadership

Children are back in school, but for many of us it feels like we are still a long way from a full pandemic recovery. One place many PTA leaders feel that is in the volunteers on their local boards, or should we say the lack of volunteers. Filling a vacant board position or committee chair is important to your plans this year and it’s also key to building leadership for the long-term vitality of your association.

Here are some ideas for how to connect with your members and encourage them to take on a leadership role.

Hone your leadership team’s skills.

PTAs throughout California are seeking individuals who will step back into the limelight by not only joining PTA, but volunteering in some capacity to support their school and its families, and further their PTA goals.

Having knowledgeable, welcoming leaders will encourage your PTA members to join the team. Training develops officer leadership and teamwork skills, so do take the time to find and participate in any trainings available from your District PTA. But first, review Tips for Leaders from the California State PTA. 

In addition, the 2021-22 Welcome Packet local leaders received from California State PTA includes RUNNING YOUR PTA…Made Easy. This 24 page, easy to read document is your roadmap for successful goal setting, executive board and association meetings, leadership practices, officer tips, inclusivity, finances, bylaws, and calendar planning. Share it with your board via this link (or this link for the Spanish version). You can also request copies through your District PTA president. The California State PTA “Welcome Packet Homepage” includes specific items for your PTA leaders: president, treasurer, parliamentarian, communications. 

Consider doing less this year.

The executive board should consider if past supported events and fundraisers are too intimidating this first year with students back on campus. It may be wise to scale back the number of events to between three and five for the remainder of the year, and ask for participation. Also, be sure to include a social, fun event. Your community’s social well being is important, just like student social well being. Events done well will encourage others to step up.

Make participation easy.

More members may be working from home, but don’t assume they have more time. After being home bound some are hesitant socially to step out. 

Look at ways to divide the work into smaller, less threatening tasks with shorter timeframes. For example, subdivide the hospitality chair role into the events: winter, spring, and summer association meetings, Founders Day, Staff Appreciation, etc. For fundraising consider a chair for each activity. 

Refer to the California State PTA Toolkit for more than 28 suggested Job Descriptions for PTA leaders. You can adjust these to suit your goal. 

Use the buddy system to get the work done.

Every PTA association officially needs to have a president, secretary, and treasurer. If your PTA doesn’t have an executive vice president, corresponding secretary or financial secretary, these three positions, already included in the standard bylaws, were created to provide support and divide the work. Updating your bylaws is easy using California State PTA’s electronic eBylaws program to add these positions permanently. In the meantime, the president may appoint an assistant to any officer for support, with or without attendance and full voting rights at executive board meetings. Consider these guidelines when appointing committee chairs and assistants.

Expand your reach through purposeful inclusion.

Does your PTA embrace individuals included in your school community? 

If families at your school speak many languages, seek volunteers who will help engage those families. Parents of students with special needs often feel left out when they cannot leave their children at home with a child care provider. Ask your officers and school staff which tasks can be done at home by eager volunteers.

Don’t forget students have great talent and energy. Middle school and high school students can be PTA members and they can be volunteers as well. They can get a lot out of that involvement.

PTAs can and should be creative. 

More often than not, the new idea you have has been done before. Reach out and connect with nearby PTAs and your council and district PTA to share ideas and success stories and pool your resources.