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January 16, 2013

Presentation focuses on Internet safety, cyber bullying

By Maria Allard
C & G Staff Writer

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A few Carlson first-graders raise their hands when asked what a bully is.

WARREN — Students who attend Carlson Elementary School learned several safety tips when using the Internet, during a presentation from the State of Michigan’s Attorney General’s office Jan. 10.

Lori Mabee, a Michigan Cyber Safety Initiative presenter with the attorney general’s office, gave the presentation, which included tips on how to avoid strangers when surfing the Internet and what to do when faced with a cyber bully.

Several presentations were held throughout the day. They varied in length, and content was based on grade level. Carlson is part of Van Dyke Public Schools.

Mabee reminded the students to let their parents or a trusted adult know each time they use the computer. She also taught the students the “3 Keeps” of Internet safety and used hand gestures to get the point across.

The first one is to “keep” personal information safe. Mabee encouraged students not to give out their names, addresses, passwords or phone numbers to strangers online. Don’t post pictures for strangers to see and never reveal your school were other tips.

“It’s really important you don’t have your name in your email address,” Mabee said. “As a child, it is not a good idea, especially if you have your last name in it.”

The second “keep” is to keep strangers away. This includes not posting your plans on the Internet for unfamiliar persons to view.

“Don’t tell where you’re going,” Mabee said. “If you’re going out to dinner or soccer practice, that is information that should not be shared with anyone you don’t know.”

And the third “keep” is to keep telling a trusted adult of anything that could make the students feel uncomfortable when on the Web.

“An Internet stranger can tell you anything, and you don’t know it’s true,” Mabee pointed out.

During the presentation, students viewed a cartoon video from the attorney general’s office about “Faux Paw The Techno Cat.” It told the story of what happened to Faux Paw when the cat didn’t follow the “3 Keeps” when chatting online.

Faux Paw made plans via the Internet with a stranger, known as “Happy Fluffy Kitty Face.” The kitty, however, turned out to be a bulldog that went after the techno cat. It was a good thing Faux Paw’s friend Cowboy Cursor was on hand to help rescue the cat from the bulldog. The video was designed to show the students what could happen if they don’t practice the three “keeps.”

Cyber bullying also was addressed.

“A cyber bully is someone who uses a cellphone or computer to be mean to others,” Mabee said. “A bully keeps being mean to you over a long period of time.”

At school, the Carlson students use computers for the Compass Math program and English language arts learning, as well as to practice academic skills and to research reports. School social worker Kathleen Bair said the district’s technology department installed blocks on certain websites so students cannot access them.

The attorney general’s office had contacted Carlson last year to present something for parents. This year, staff wanted to hold something for the students, Bair said.

Steps will be taken to reinforce what the students learned last week about Internet safety. At press time, members from the STAND Strength Team were scheduled to talk about bullying with the students during their lunch hour Jan. 15.

“They’ll reinforce this, too,” Bair said.

Bair said classroom teachers also will have reminder discussions with their students to keep Internet safety a priority.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Maria Allard at allard@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1045.