With kids spending more and more time online these days, being savvy and safe is paramount, so Cooper Elementary School held an internet safety presentation for its students this week.
The presentations were led by Fort Dodge Police Department Officer Joelyn Johnson, a school resource officer, who taught the students some rules on how to be responsible and respectful on the web.
“The older they get, the more they’re going to be on the internet, so we want to make sure we’re starting them young and having those conversations (about safety),” explained school counselor Samantha Harms. “They’re using the internet all the time, so we want to keep our kids safe.”
The first rule Johnson told the students is to tell a trusted adult — a parent, a teacher, an older sibling, a police officer — anytime something they’ve seen online has made them feel sad, scared or confused.
“The way the internet is designed, there are bad guys out there who can fake websites that even you guys can accidentally click on,” she warned.
The second rule is to ask a parent before sharing any personal information online.
“Personal information can be used by predators to contact you,” she said.
She also warned about online scammers and identity thieves using personal information acquired over the web.
Some websites ask for personal information, as do some pop-up ads on the web. Johnson warned the students not to fall for these tactics.
“The less information you share on the internet, the less it’s likely to be compromised,” she said. “Once it’s posted on the internet, how long is it there for? Forever.”
Rule three is don’t meet face-to-face with anyone from the internet.
“Just remember: if you haven’t met the person face-to-face before, what are they to you?” Johnson asked the students. “A stranger.”
She said that even if they’ve spent weeks or months playing an online video game together, they still really don’t know that person.
The final rule is to use good “nettiquette” — be respectful and not rude or mean online.
“We’ve all heard the word ‘cyberbullying,’ right?” Johnson asked.
She gave the students ways to handle the situation if they are ever cyberbullied — they can block the person off whatever social media platform they’re using, they could tell a trusted adult, or they can just turn off the computer and walk away.
Harms is hopeful that the presentation will stick with the students as they spend time online.
“I think we’re lucky that we have Officer Johnson that kids recognize and can come in and is a safe person so they know her,” she said.