Training prepares children for online 'stranger danger'

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Many parents teach their kids about stranger danger, but that concept doesn't protect kids on the Internet, so the attorney general's office is offering new training to help your children Stay Safe.

A show of hands reveals even second- and third-graders at Butterfield Canyon Elementary know how to text message, and that's not all -- children start social networking younger than many parents realize. That's why the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force is now going to schools throughout the state to teach kids safety on the Internet.

Lezlee Bylund, with the Net Smarts program, says, "They know what's going on on the Internet, and it's important for us to educate them and help them make safer choices."

They estimate 70 percent of children will come across pornography while online. So age-appropriate scenarios help students avoid inappropriate material and predators. The old standby "stranger danger" doesn't work in the virtual world.

Sariah Donnahoo, a community education specialist for The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, says, "Nobody is a stranger online. We are all friends. Anything you do online is all about befriending somebody. So by the time you talk to the kid about not talking to strangers, they are like, ‘Well I'm not talking to strangers, this is my good friend.'"

The trainers recommend parents set clear limits for young children.

Sixth-grader Isabelle Vezeau says, "I'm not allowed to go on YouTube, and I have a lot of friends that go on YouTube, and do just like random things. And I'm just like, ‘Sorry my mom and dad won't let me do that.'"

They caution, parents should closely monitor what goes on, even on kid-friendly sites.

"We get really comfortable, like, ‘Oh they are just on webkins, it's no big deal.' But do we really know what's going on?" Donnahoo says.

This safety training is available to any Utah school. Educators need to schedule sessions through the Utah Attorney General's Office.


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Nadine Wimmer


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