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Did you know a staggering one in seven youngsters has received unwanted sexual solicitations online? And that one in 11 has experienced some type on online bullying? That’s according to the FBI’s website touting a program designed to keep kids safe while online.
Did you also know that the FBI works to educate kids and their parents about the Internet—both the wonderfully educational and insidiously opportunistic aspects of it? They offer schools a Safe Online Surfing program to help students recognize, avoid and report online risks.
The Safe Online Surfing (SOS) program began in Miami six years ago, when Special Agent Jim Lewis approached a co-worker, Community Outreach Specialist Jeff Green, about sharing Internet safety tips with students. FBI Miami turned to nearby Nova Southeastern University for assistance and together they created an Internet safety programs, including tests for students on what they had learned. Feedback from students and teachers was positive. Green said, “Kids are surfing the Internet anyway, so we were just using a vehicle they were comfortable with.”
By October of 2010, the Cyber Division at FBI Headquarters expanded the SOS program into a national one. Today, over 90,000 children in 41 states have completed the online safety program.
Beginning with the third grade and continuing through the eighth, students start by taking pre-quizzes to test their overall awareness. A scavenger hunt then takes them to pre-screened websites which they cull for Internet safety information. Finally, timed post-quizzes are given to the youngsters to ascertain what they have learned.
Additionally, monthly from September through May, schools with the highest scoring students in the nation are awarded an FBI-SOS Trophy.
Students in the program learn pertinent Internet topics such as:
- Password security
- Virus protection
- Copyright issues
- Online predators
- Chat rooms
- Social networking sites
- When to talk to parents or teachers about a threat; and
- Appropriate uses of cell phones and gaming devices.
“The Internet is a powerful resource for our youth, but it also presents opportunities for those who would attempt to do them harm…the Safe Online Surfing program is designed to teach young people what they need to know to avoid falling victim to individuals who want to take advantage of their youth and innocence.”– Cyber Division Assistant Director Gordon Snow
Schools and parents interested in signing up for the Safe Online Surfing program should contact their local FBI community outreach specialist.
Interactive: CBS News Keeping Children Safe Online
Identity theft secrets, guest writer, Sami K. Hartsfield, ACP, is a paralegal in Houston with experience in commercial litigation and tax law. She holds a degree in paralegal studies and a Bachelor of Science degree in political science. After interning with Texas’ 14th Court of Appeals under Chief Justice Adele Hedges and completing the University of Houston Law Center’s Summer 2008 Prelaw Institute, she is preparing to enter law school this fall. Sami holds a national advanced paralegal certification, and four specialty certifications: Discovery; Trial Practice; Contracts Management; and Social Security Disability Law