Safe Online Surfing – With school back in session, one topic that’s on many class curriculums around the nation is cyber safety. After all, it’s a hyper-connected world — with texting, social networking, e-mail, online gaming, chat, music downloading, web surfing, and other forms of wired and wireless communication now a regular part of children’s lives.
The FBI SOS site highlights cyber security through games, videos, and other interactive features.
The FBI has a new program that can help. Today, as part of its longstanding crime prevention and public outreach efforts, the FBI is announcing a free web-based initiative designed to help teachers educate students about cyber safety.
After entering the FBI-SOS website, students “travel” to their grade-specific island, which includes either seven or eight learning portals to visit. These areas address topics such as the protection of personal information, password strength, cell phone safety, social networking, and online gaming safety. The videos also include real-life stories of kids who have faced cyber bullies and online predators. Visit SOS.
It’s called the FBI-SOS (Safe Online Surfing) Internet Challenge — and it was developed with the assistance of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and with the input of teachers and schools.
FBI-SOS is available through a newly revamped website at https://sos.fbi.gov. The site features six grade-specific “islands” — for third- through eighth-grade students — highlighting various aspects of cyber security through games, videos, and other interactive features. Each island has either seven or eight areas to explore — with a specific cyber safety lesson — and its own central character and visual theme. For example, fourth grade features Ice Island, complete with falling snow and penguins.
To encourage participation and enhance learning, FBI-SOS includes both testing for students and competition among schools. Each grade level has its own exam, which can only be taken after teachers have signed up their respective classes and all activities on the island have been completed by each student. And once all the exams for a class are graded (done electronically by the FBI), schools appear on a leader board in three categories based on the number of total participants. During each rating period, top scoring schools in each category nationwide are awarded an FBI-SOS trophy and, when possible, receive a visit from a local FBI agent. All public, private, and home schools are eligible to participate.
For teachers and schools, FBI-SOS provides virtually everything they need to teach good cyber citizenship:
- A free, ready-made curriculum that meets state and federal Internet safety mandates (see sidebar for topics covered);
- Age-appropriate content for each of the six grade levels;
- A printable teacher’s guide that spells out how teachers can sign up their classes and use the site; and
- Detailed rules and instructions for students
Child ID App The Safe Online Surfing (SOS) website is the second tool the FBI has launched over the past year to help protect kids. The other — the FBI Child ID app — provides an easy way for parents to use their smartphones to store pictures and information on their kids in case they go missing. Learn More
Can anyone visit the website? Absolutely. Kids of all ages — and even adults — can explore the site, play the games, watch the videos, and learn all about cyber safety. However, the exam can only be taken by third- to eighth-grade students whose classes have been registered by their teachers.
An important note: the FBI is not collecting student names, ages, or other identifying information through the website. Students are identified only by number when taking the exams; their teachers alone know which number matches which student. And teachers only need to provide their name, school, and e-mail address when signing up. The e-mail address is needed to verify the teacher’s identity for registration purposes.
Scott McMillion, head of the unit that manages the program in the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division says :
FBI-SOS is a fun, free, and effective way to teach kids how to use the Internet safely and responsibly … We encourage teachers to check out the site and sign up their classes during the school year.
Visit the site at https://sos.fbi.gov.
Don’t Let It Happen to You
Here are a few precautions that can keep you from being victimized by “sextortion”:
- Don’t take for granted that your computer’s anti-virus software is a guarantee against intrusions.
- Turn off your computer when you aren’t using it.
- Cover your webcam when not in use.
- Don’t open attachments without independently verifying that they were sent from someone you know.
- It’s okay to be suspicious. If you receive a message with an attachment from your mother at 3 a.m., maybe the message is not really from your mother.
- If your computer has been compromised and you are receiving extortion threats, don’t be afraid to talk to your parents or to call law enforcement.
If you think you’ve been victimized by an online auto scam, file a complaint with IC3. Once complaints are received and analyzed, IC3 forwards them as appropriate to a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency.
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