You might not think that these third graders know much about the internet, but almost every single one of them is online on a routine basis.
"They are very savvy on the computer. That's why it is so important to have the program so technology is out there they need to know how to use it and they need to use it in an appropriate way," says school guidance counselor Julie Dewolf.
Many schools call on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to provide free education programs. "Kids even younger than kindergarten may be playing online games and sometimes they play with what they call random people. So, if they are talking with someone they don't know we want them just to talk about the game because unfortunately that might be a site where a child might be groomed to actually meet someone," says Pam Weaver the Director of Community Education for NCMEC NY.
For the younger kids , characters teach basic safety rules. The program is called Netsmartz. "We'll be talking about how you should never give out personal information. Tell an adult you trust if anyone is talking to you and making you feel scared, hurt, uncomfortable, or confused. We also teach good use and etiquette which means don't be a cyber bully, don't be rude online and never meet anyone off-line," Weaver adds.
Just before summer break is a good time to re-inforce the rules. "We do have kids online and we want them to be safe all the time but summer is coming up and definitely be using computer more often," says Dewolf.
Many kids are already getting the message. "We shouldn't put our name and address and personal information on the internet because then people can track us but we can just not put personal info on there and stuff that you like to do favorite foods and stuff," says Alahna Taylor. She's a fifth grader at Kirk Rd.
But perhaps the most important lesson is for parents. Because the more involved they are, the safer kids will be. "If children know their parents aren't aware of what's happening, it's a little easier for them to engage in risky behavior," says Weaver.
For more information on Netsmartz, click here.
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