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Google gives a lesson in Internet safety

SIXTH GRADERS at the dalles middle school, from left, Julian Aguilar (front row), Boone Cooper (back row), Cylis Johnson (center) and Raven Bierwirth (right) wave paddles representing social media while their classmate Riley Brewer gives a cheerful thumbs up (far right) at Google’s Internet Safety Roadshow on June 5.

SIXTH GRADERS at the dalles middle school, from left, Julian Aguilar (front row), Boone Cooper (back row), Cylis Johnson (center) and Raven Bierwirth (right) wave paddles representing social media while their classmate Riley Brewer gives a cheerful thumbs up (far right) at Google’s Internet Safety Roadshow on June 5. Photo by Victoria Osborne.

About 600 students crowded onto gymnasium bleachers on June 5 to listen and learn five habits that could potentially teach them how to be safer online and help them to avoid threats like harassment and cyber bullying.

Just 15 percent of Facebook users have checked their privacy settings, according to Google’s Internet Safety Roadshow statistics. Added to that, one in three students share their passwords with individuals who are not trusted adults and who could later be inclined to use that information against them.

Google’s online safety presentation specially geared toward middle schoolers has appeared in 25 states over the course of the last year, according to Google Public Affairs Analyst Jamie Hill, who was on hand at the June 5 presentation at The Dalles Middle School.

“This is the very first year we’ve done it, and about 1,700 students have seen the presentation so far,” she said, “and this is our last stop of the year.”

According to Google officials, it’s all about teaching students, parents and educators how to encourage young internet-users to practice safe online habits and refrain from sharing too much personal information on the web.

“As more and more students use the internet for academic and social needs,” the literature states, “it is important they have tips to be safe when doing so.“

Presenters Joe Abernethy and Chastity Wells asked a sea of TDMS students holding green and red paddles (used to indicate ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers) how many of them regularly shared photos of themselves online.

An overwhelming number of waving, green-sided paddles were students’ response.

“With great power comes great responsibility,” Wells told students, borrowing a quote from Spiderman. “And you are who you share, so what you decide to put out there online really matters.”

Presenters encouraged students to take steps to devise strong passwords, providing a list of tips on how to avoid common scams and privacy breeches. Above all, they said, “think before you share.”

“The web connects us in such a way that what we post becomes a part of our identities,” Wells said. “The internet is kind of like a tattoo that way; once it’s on, it’s very difficult to remove.”

“You have the opportunity to build your own life story online,” Abernethy said, “so make it a positive one.

“Keep in mind that there are about 2.4 billion people on the internet right now, so before you post anything, be sure it’s something you want your friends, relatives, or even future employers to potentially see sometime in the future.”

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