Resources for Parents

Social Media Awareness Campaign

Welcome to the SMACtalk Parent Blog! As parents, we are all raising our children in a digital world that may look different from our own childhoods. Regularly talking with our children about their online world is one of the most important things we can do. Here you will find videos, thoughts, and other resources curated by thoughtful parents so that we can become better at talking SMAC with our kids.

In companion to the SMACtalk Parent Blog, parent-friendly posters - in English and Spanish - are provided as another means for schools to connect with parents and parents to connect with their children. Posters are designed to inform and educate parents in keeping our children safe online. Posters can be placed in the parent center at a school, posted online, shared on social media, or sent home in students' backpacks.

4/7/2022

Vlog: The Future of Social Media

by Rachel Schell, parent of an Arkansas student

In this year's final video from Rachel Shell, she discusses the future of social media and how social media can affect our children's future. How do you think social media will look in 20 years? Let us know by going to Facebook or Twitter and posting the answer on your account. Be sure to use #SMACtalkAR so we can continue these conversations online.

4/7/2022

April Parent Posters: Virtual Relationships

by SMACtalk for Parents

Click the image(s) to download the PDF poster about finding the right balance with technology.

4/7/2022

Vlog: La Importancia de No Compartir Información Personal/Privada en Redes Sociales

by Maria Touchstone, advocate for Arkansas students and Latino families

Niños necesitan entender la importancia de no compartir información personal/privada en las redes sociales por los riesgos/peligros asociados con hacer eso.

The Importance of Not Sharing Private/Personal Information on Social Media: Children need to understand the importance of not sharing personal/private information on social media because of the dangers/risks associated with doing that.

4/7/2022

Giving our kids the information they need to make informed choices

by Jonathan Cristall, attorney and author of What They Don't Teach Teens

When I was a teenager in the 1980s, my mistakes—and I made many—were in analog and long forgotten. Today, comparable youthful mistakes can be made digitally and may not be forgotten by those who bore witness. It's never been easy to be a teen, but the 21st-century presents potential pitfalls that no previous generation has faced. With a few clicks of a digital device teens might become the target of a cyberbully, share a nude that they regret moments later, somehow malign their digital footprint, become a target of sextortion or revenge porn, and so much more.

We want our kids to make informed choices, but to do so they need information. The good thing is that there's lots of information available to parents (guardians, teachers, and other caregivers too) about how to stay safe online. The bad thing is that there's lots of information. It can feel overwhelming; where does one even begin?

I start with the topics that I believe will be most helpful to any of my three teenage sons at that time in his life. Since these topics are often broad and deep, I focus on what I think is most important and spend a little time familiarizing myself with that topic. Since so many of us only get a minute or two to talk to our teenage children before being tuned out, I try to make the most of the sliver of time presented. When I really focus on what's the most essential information to convey, it can be surprising how much I can be cover in such a short time. Bite sized pieces, that sometimes evolve into actual discussions, are the sweet spot for my family. In other words, less is more.

This is one of the reasons I absolutely love SMACtalk—the information is digestible for my sons. Do I want them to know all there is to know about digital safety? Of course! But I don't believe that's possible and my job as their dad is to help them learn some of the bigger concepts, like maintaining the integrity of one's digital footprint, being a good digital citizen, the permanence of digital images, and certainly more. Sometimes you only need one thing to keep you safer. As such, I focus on one thing at a time.

Perhaps, one day, our schools will create a robust class that teaches the "how-to's" and "how-not-to's" of life in the digital world. Until that time, it's on us as their parents and caregivers to impart this invaluable information as best we can. Doing so will help prepare our kids for the inevitable—when the unexpected things happen online. At those moments, we want them to do the right thing, respond smartly and stay safe for their sake and that of others.

3/1/2022

Vlog: How Social Media Affects Future Employability

by Shannon Puckett, educator and parent of Arkansas students

As a Career and Technical Education Coordinator, Shannon's job revolves around helping teachers increase their students' employability. In this video, she shares tips about creating a positive online presence for students, as well as her personal experiences with her own children using social media.

3/1/2022

March Parent Posters: Unplugging

by SMACtalk for Parents

Click the image(s) to download the PDF poster about how to unplug and spend time offline.

3/1/2022

Vlog: El Peligro del Bullying/Acoso en Redes Sociales

by Maria Touchstone, advocate for Arkansas students and Latino families

El bullying/acoso esta sucediendo en las redes sociales todos los días. Es importante hablar con sus hijos para prepararlos para cuando esto pase. Ellos necesitan saber que hacer y reportarlo si les sucede.

The Danger of Bullying on Social Media: Bullying on social media is happening every day. It is important to talk to your kids and prepare them for when this happens. They need to know what to do and report it if it happens.

3/1/2022

Screen-Obsessed and Sleeping Less: How Increased Screen Time is Affecting Teens

by Melanie Schmitt, M.S., Assistant Professor of Practice at TTU Family and Consumer Sciences Education

Originally published in the Fort Smith Times Record on June 28, 2019

Have you ever tried countless techniques to get your teenager out of bed in the morning only to be confronted with extreme moodiness? Believe it or not, there may be a valid reason for this. Ask any teen about the last thing they look at before falling asleep, and a large majority will probably say that they spend this time on their phone or an electronic device.

So how is screen time before bed really affecting today's teens?

First, let's consider the period of adolescence. This time is specifically important as far as required sleep because adolescents are still in a rapid state of development. In fact, most sleep experts recommend at least nine hours for teens — less than seven is considered inadequate. Although more sleep is recommended, it seems as though there are many factors that work against this necessity.

One factor is the release of the sleep hormone called melatonin. Do you ever wonder why adults tend to get sleepy earlier in the evening while most teens seem to be night owls? Studies have shown that melatonin is released in an adult's body sometime between 8-10 p.m., while in teens, this hormone is not released until anywhere from 10 p.m. to as late as 1 a.m.

Now let's consider the current issue: screen time before bed. When you add the use of electronics, the release of melatonin is affected even more. The blue light that is emitted by smartphones and tablets simulates daylight, which can inhibit the release of melatonin. Not only that, but technology also stimulates the brain, making it more difficult to fall asleep, and even if they do fall asleep, 44% of cellphone-owning teens say that they regularly keep their phones on and active at night, which leads to sleep that can be interrupted by calls, texts and notifications.

Research continues to back up the correlation between less sleep time and more screen time. According to surveys completed and reported on in the journal, Sleep Medicine, major increases in inadequate hours of sleep were seen around 2009 with the introduction of smartphones, and these numbers have continued to climb in recent years.

When our body doesn't get enough sleep, it will try to compensate by making us sleepy throughout the day. For many teens, this can and does often interfere with their ability to concentrate and stay awake in school.

The best solution to this issue would be to get technology out of the rooms of teens at night. However, it is often difficult for not only teens but also adults to avoid screen time before bed. If a tech-free room is not an option, it is recommended to try to cut off screen time or anything stimulating at least 30 minutes before bed.

Set an example and make this a routine. When the whole family gets restful sleep, everyone benefits.

3/1/2022

Vlog: Protecting Our Kids on Social Media

by Cedric Black, advocate for Arkansas students

Join Cedric Black as he shares practical strategies for keeping our children safe when using social media. It is important that our children are careful about what they post, not sharing their passwords, and have the right privacy settings. We need to approach social media use as a family and not leave to our kids to figure out on their own.

2/2/2022

Vlog: Can our kids benefit from social media?

by Rachel Schell, parent of an Arkansas student

Hear more from Rachel Schell in her third video, where she gives advice on signing up your kids for accounts and shares her top three benefits of kids using social media.

2/2/2022

February Parent Posters: Online Dangers

by SMACtalk for Parents

Click the image(s) to download the PDF poster about the high-stakes heartbreaks of the internet.

2/2/2022

Vlog: Desconectando con Papa Rap

by Alvin Lopez, a Latino motivational speaker for parents and students from Arkansas

Alvin "Papa Rap" López habla sobre sus experiencias con su familia, especialmente con su nieta, y la importancia de establecer límites en el uso de Internet. Describe cómo ayudó a su nieta a encontrar formas de "desconectarse" y desconectarse de la tecnología y volver a conectarse con su familia en la vida real.

Alvin "Papa Rap" Lopez talks about his experiences with his family, especially his granddaughter, and the importance of setting limits on internet usage. He describes how he helped his granddaughter find ways to "unplug" and disconnect from technology and re-connect with her family in real life.

2/2/2022

Always Standing at a Crossroads with Children and Technology

by Ray Girdler, parent of Arkansas students

My son was in the kitchen the other day looking for a gift for his mom on my Amazon account. When I peeked over his shoulder, I couldn't believe some of the images and words I saw on the t-shirts and cups on the screen. He was being completely innocent, but it seems that the internet trash still found him. At first, I was upset. Then I thought to myself, "Is it really that different than driving down the road in my car?" When he's riding with me, I can't always control everything he might see out the window. But you know, in those moments, we just take time to talk about what happened or what we saw together. Why should this situation be different just because it happened online?

I don't know if I'm too uptight or not tight enough when it comes to the internet and devices in my house. I imagine every parent feels this way in some capacity. I don't have the magic answer. I did realize something in the online shopping moment with my son, though. I have the knowledge and ability to handle the situation. I think many times, we just need to apply the real-life skills we already have to a new context. Transfer what you already know about life into the online world.

I'm not sure if that is any more comforting. The world is still dangerous. However, this perspective helped me decide how to respond and gave me the resolve not to overreact. We got past it, and we bought his mom something special and awesome that would have been impossible to find in person. I know this wasn't some life-changing situation, but there was a lesson in it for me. I'm not going to let the trash we come across get in the way of spreading the love we have to give... online or in real life.

1/4/2022

Vlog: Using Social Media for Social Good

by Dr. C.J. Huff, a retired superintendent, distinguished educator, and inspirational leader

Social media comes with its challenges in this day and age, and there seems to be plenty of negativity surrounding it. However, C.J. shares how we can leverage social media in supporting children and youth to do something positive.

1/4/2022

January Parent Posters: Shine Online

by SMACtalk for Parents

Click the image(s) to download the PDF poster and learn about establishing an online presence.

1/4/2022

Social Media Awareness and Expectations in Our Home

by Emily Torres, parent of Arkansas students

We have five children ranging in age from 21 months to 11 years old. None of them have social media accounts or even smartphones. The research behind mental health ties to children having those accounts was very eye-opening for us. Because of this, we have chosen that our kids can have devices appropriate to their age. They have a shared Chromebook that is used in a common space. They have an iPad as well that is shared. Apps have to be approved by us before adding or deleting, and we have parental filters on that device. We also limit their "electronics time" to 30 minutes a day unless it is reading on their Nook.

Our oldest asked if he could get a cell phone at ten years old. The agreement is that he has a prepaid phone with no internet/data capability. He paid for the phone, and he pays for the monthly plan as well if he wants to use it. We always have his passcode. We communicated ahead of time that we would be allowed to check his phone at any time, no questions or arguments. He also gives his phone to us at bedtime every night. These rules are also followed at his dad's house.

This has worked for us because the expectations were laid out before a phone was ever introduced. We feel it is essential to have those discussions with your kids before a situation ever comes up. Once it comes up, the issue is harder to handle if you haven't established guidelines. As parents, we never know if we are always doing things right, but I believe communication is the first step to success on any topic.

12/1/2021

Vlog: The 5 Biggest Concerns for Kids on Social Media

by Rachel Schell, parent of an Arkansas student

Hear more from Rachel Schell as she discusses the five biggest concerns for kids on social media, based on her conversations with Arkansas parents and her own experiences, and some strategies from experts for facing these issues.

12/1/2021

December Parent Posters: Privacy Matters

by SMACtalk for Parents

Click the image(s) to download the PDF poster about ways to protect your child and their information online.

12/1/2021

Vlog: Importancia de usar la tecnología apropiadamente

by Lena Ballard, School Counselor at Lakeside Junior High

Lena Ballard es la consejera de la escuela Lakeside Junior High en el distrito escolar Springdale. Ella habla de la importancia de usar la tecnología con moderación manteniendo una comunicación positiva y con adultos como modelos a seguir para nuestros adolescentes.

Lena Ballard is the School Counselor at Lakeside Junior High in the Springdale School District. In this video she talks about the importance of using technology with moderation, maintaining positive communication, and adults being good role models for our teens.

12/1/2021

The Glitter of Social Media

by Katie Pittenger, parent and educator of Arkansas students

As a mother and an educator, I have had my fair share of experiences with social media. There have been a variety of apps and platforms that my children and former students have used over the years, but they all have served the same purpose. Everyone has their own reasons for taking a "scroll" during their free time. I myself have a few social media accounts that I use to keep up with my friends and family, as well as for entertainment, and even for work. Social media is such a big part of how we interact with each other today, even more so than when my kids were teenagers.

I have always tried to remind my kids that they should be careful about what they post. The things you post online are like glitter. Have you ever used glitter? Maybe to make something prettier, or to help a sign catch someone's attention? Glitter is awesome! Except when you want it to go away. You think that you have finally cleaned up the last of the glittery-slime-making-fiasco that overtook your dining room table for a few days over the summer, but then months later you get up from dinner and someone asks how you got glitter on your face. Glitter is never completely gone, just like the things we post online. We can do our best to change settings and try to delete things, but once they are out there we have no way to know who may have screenshot them, saved them, or shared them with others.

As parents and educators, we share the responsibility of teaching and protecting our children in the real world and online. Resources from the Social Media Awareness Campaign can be a great way to get those conversations started.

11/1/2021

Vlog: Social Media as a Family

by Cedric Black, advocate for Arkansas students

Join Cedric Black as he talks about his journey through social media and using social media together as a family.

11/1/2021

November Parent Posters: Vetting Information

by SMACtalk for Parents

Click the image(s) to download the PDF poster about vetting information and identifying fact vs. fiction.

11/1/2021

Parents Should Share SMACtalk Videos with Kids

by Brittany S. Williams, parent of an Arkansas student

After visiting the Social Media Awareness Campaign webpage, I can say that I appreciate this approach used to spread awareness to young students. My six-year-old was extremely engaged as he watched the videos on online dangers. I was amazed to see how well he responded when I asked him what he learned from the information provided. He stated, "don't download things without grownup permission. Don't tell people where you live or your birthdate, and don't talk to strangers." He was told to check out the website for 20 mins, but he enjoyed the videos so much that he ended up watching them all. I'm definitely pleased with that. Not only was I glad to see that my son retained information from the graphically relatable videos for his age, but I even saw videos that would make great topics for my teen group sessions that I provide at work. It's really important that our kids understand the online dangers that are literally at their fingertips, and it's even more important that we educate them on how to effectively respond when facing these scenarios in real life. I look forward to sharing this information with my peers soon.

10/1/2021

Vlog: Why Do Kids Want To Be On Social Media?

by Rachel Schell, parent of an Arkansas student

Listen to Rachel Schell (mom, business owner, professional speaker, and consultant) as she talks about her journey raising her 8-year-old daughter in this digital age and creating a social media account for the first time.

10/1/2021

October Parent Posters: Online Etiquette

by SMACtalk for Parents

Click the image(s) to download the PDF poster highlighting online etiquette or "netiquette" and cyberbullying.

10/1/2021

Parents: Keep an Eye on Your Child's Online Activities

by Belinda Kittrell, parent of an Arkansas student

Parents and children were optimistic for a new fall outlook only to see COVID-19 rear its ugly head. We are all missing friends and summer activities. Pandemic fatigue is a daily fight with no end in sight. This lack of normalcy has many children turning to the internet for new friends and activities. It is important that parents keep an eye on these online friends and activities. The following are a list of items that I have discussed with my daughter as the summer has worn. Everyone has an angel for their child that is why I also did my iPad history and email checks.

  1. Never share your passwords to devices, email, or social media accounts information.
  2. Be careful who you talk to online – it could be a predator.
  3. Never give them your home address and phone number.
  4. Never take and send pictures that you would not plaster on the front door of nearest church!
  5. Never agree to meet someone you talk to online.
  6. Never invite people you meet to your home.
  7. Never share when and where parents will be out of town.

9/1/2021

SMACtalk presents "CYBERWISE"

by Mr. Steve, The Music Man

Although the song was created with elementary students in mind, we think listeners of all ages can enjoy shaking their hips to these online safety tips - a great way to get the conversation started with your family.

9/1/2021

September Parent Posters: Introduction to SMACtalk

by SMACtalk for Parents

Click the image(s) to download the PDF poster introducing SMACtalk with "CYBERWISE" by Mr. Steve, The Music Man.

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