Partnership Aims to Protect Children from Online Predators, Cyber Bullies

UNIVERSITY PARK – Studies show that one-in-five youth using the Internet receive at least one online sexual solicitation in a one-year period, and 29-percent of children will freely give out their home address if asked.

In light of this reality, many states are requiring schools to teach students about internet safety. For example, in Pennsylvania, Attorney General Tom Corbett, along with other Pennsylvania officials, has called for every school in Pennsylvania to have a proven bullying prevention program, especially one that focuses on the new wave of cyber-bullying.

As part of this effort to help children and youth learn how to protect themselves online, Penn State has formed a new partnership with the Internet Keep Safe Coalition.

The Internet Keep Safe Coalition group teaches basic rules of Internet safety to children and parents, reaching them online at http://www.IKeepSafe.org and in school. They seek to teach children the “three keeps”:

1. I Keep Safe all my personal information.
2. I Keep Away from online strangers.
3. I Keep Telling my parents or a trusted adult what I see on the Internet.

To date, IKeepSafe.org has developed two books, two movies, and a web site, all featuring an animated character named Faux Paw the Techno Cat. The materials teach children the importance of protecting personal information and avoiding inappropriate places on the Internet.

The IKeepSafe.org Web site teaches children to safely navigate the Internet through a virtual playground, an animated video download, and educational games. Educational materials, including worksheets and tests, are also available for parents and educators. Recently, Pennsylvania has selected the Faux Paw materials for use in elementary schools across the state.

Through this new partnership, the Penn State College of Education will help the Internet Keep Safe Coalition Group develop new educational materials that teachers can use in conjunction with the group’s most recent book, Faux Paw Meets the First Lady, which focuses on cyber-bullying.

The College of Education recently received a TIFF grant to aid in the production of these new materials. Future projects may include continuing education courses for parents, educators, public health professionals and others who work with children on how to teach these concepts to them. The partnership is also pursuing the possibility of working with WPSU to produce modeling videos for parents to learn how to talk to their children about these issues.

The Internet Keep Safe Coalition is a non-profit organization founded by Jacalyn S. Leavitt, Utah’s first lady from 1993 to 2003. Governors and/or first spouses formed this coalition in partnership with a growing list of crime prevention organizations, law enforcement agencies, foundations and corporate sponsors.

For more information, www.IKeepSafe.org online.

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