Internet Safety 411

The Problem

With the fast expansion of the World Wide Web, kids are taking advantage of this resource earlier and earlier. This leads to regular victimization of kids and teens by others who recognize the sense of anonymity on the internet. Law enforcement is working hard to catch up with this epidemic, incarcerating new online predators every day. Since there is no way to completely rid the internet of these predators, it is imperative for kids and teens to know how to protect themselves online. Sexual solicitation is a common problem online. Many kids and teens aren't familiar with the resources available to them if they're facing this issue (i.e., Cyber Tip Line). Another common problem is cyber bullying. The kids (mainly middle-school aged) who face this issue often don't recognize the consequences cyber bullies can face. Instead of reporting cyberbullies to the proper authorities, many kids and teens will quietly try to deal with this form of abuse while they may plunge into bouts of depression, and in some cases, suicidal tendencies.  Parents are often clueless as to their children's online whereabouts. Without proper reinforcement of safe online behavior at home, many kids and teens don't learn the basic about Internet Safety. For instance, many children don't see it as a problem to reveal their names, birth dates, and phone number online. It is important for parents to have enough knowledge about Internet Safety to allow them to monitor their children's online behavior, making the topic of online safety just as important as the topic of street safety. Kids shouldn't enter a chat room with a stranger, just as they shouldn't get in a car with a stranger.

Plan of Action

Near the end of my freshman year, I decided to create an organization to inform youth and adults about how to protect themselves online. First, I contacted my school resource officers. They agreed to support me while I created the organization. Next, I spoke with administrators at my high school in order to make my organization an official school club. To ensure that all members of the group would be able to obtain volunteer hours for their good works, I spoke with the Bright Futures representative for my school, then the representative for the county. I also spoke with the local representative of the International Baccalaureate program to ensure that these students would have a chance to obtain CAS (Creative Action Service) volunteer hours through my organization. These requests were approved before the end of the school year. Over the summer, I spent months learning everything I could about Internet Safety. At the beginning of my sophomore year of high school, I recruited students to join my group. Using the knowledge I had gained regarding Internet Safety, and the resources of other Internet Safety organizations, I trained the students who joined the group. We also worked with the local chapter of the FBI to learn more about cyber crime, and how to stay safe online. After we felt sufficiently prepared in our knowledge of Internet Safety, we created a presentation for kids, incorporating all of the information we had learned. We contacted local middle schools, where we gave our Internet Safety presentations to the students. We soon started to make appearances at local fairs and festivals to reach out to more members of our community. We also updated our presentations to suit elementary school kids, high schoolers, and parents as well. We have now reached thousands of kids, teens and parents. We are recognized as a source of knowledge concerning Internet Safety. Most recently we served as experts on a bullying panel sponsored by the local news channel. Through this event, we were able to interact with even more kids, helping them deal with problems faced in the schoolyard, and online.

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