New program schools kids about the dangerous side of Web surfing
November 26, 2004
DARMSTADT, Germany — There are no virtual safety belts or cyber airbags to use when venturing down the information superhighway, but children should be as safe on the Internet as when traveling down any stretch of road.
To put the brakes on Internet risks for children, the Department of Defense Education Activity is introducing a new safety program all of its DOD schools.
The i-SAFE Internet Safety Education Program, which is being taught to more than 103,000 DODEA students in 15 countries, according to a statement issued by the i-SAFE America Inc., the nonprofit organization running the program.
“Military children are at the highest risk of danger on the Internet. Because military families are transient, the children are constantly online staying in touch with relatives back in the States and friends from previous schools. They have to be educated …,” said the organization's CEO Teri Schroeder in the statement.
Dr. Liz Dunham, the Darmstadt Middle School principal, said the program teaches students how to safely navigate their computers safely through cyberspace.
It is especially important at her school, Dunham said, because the middle school years are when children are becoming more interested in socializing with friends after school hours. Plus, she said, Internet chat rooms have replaced the telephone as the medium teens use to talk for hours.
Students agree that keeping safe while surfing is important.
Shonie Welker, an 8th-grade student in Darmstadt, said i-SAFE has opened her eyes to at least one danger.
“It’s interesting that things are not always as they seem,” said Welker after watching a videotape of a man posing as a young girl in an Internet chat room frequented by teenagers.
Fellow eighth-grader Anthony Domeier added that care has to be taken outside of chat rooms, as well: “Whenever I go on the Internet I always get a bunch of spam. I know these could be small, potential viruses that could invade a person’s privacy.”
“If the Internet has become a tool of incalculable value to students, it has also become a very risky environment for young people to explore without guidance,” said Frank O'Gara, a DODDS spokesman. “i-SAFE helps our educators alert students to the dangers that exist in cyberspace, and teaches them how to avoid compromising or harmful situations as they take advantage of the enormous and increasing benefits of emerging technologies.”
Some hazards include: exposure to pornography; harassment in chat rooms; legal or financial trouble through children using a parent’s credit cards; and even physical molestation or abuse after predators use the Internet meet children online and then in person, according to Internet reports.
More than 48 million American children between the ages of 5 and 17 use the Internet and from those 1 in 5 receive unwanted sexual solicitations online, while 1 in 33 receive aggressive solicitation to meet somewhere, according to the i-SAFE statement.