The FBI is helping students develop good online habits at a time when kids are spending more hours each day on the internet.
The Safe Online Surfing program uses quizzes, puzzles and other games to teach students how to spot scams, protect passwords, report corrupt links and avoid predators.
“What we don’t want them to do is not understand how the internet works,” said Shelley Lynch, public affairs specialist for the FBI’s Charlotte division.
“These predators pretend to be another child,” said Lynch. “It’s almost like a grooming process where they will get that child to trust them, and it may progress to something like asking for inappropriate photos.”
Lynch said giving out personal information, including banking numbers and photos, has long-lasting consequences.
“I can’t begin to count the times we have had parents come in and ask us to take their child’s picture off the Internet. It’s just not possible. You can’t take anything off the internet,” Lynch said.
The Safe Online Surfing program is free and tailors lessons to students in 3rd though 8th grade. Students are challenged to understand terms like malware, spam and phishing and recognizing trusted sites and networks.
Lynch said the training does not replace the role of parents in monitoring their children’s activities online.
“Do spot checks on their social media. Make them tell you if they met that person in real life, not just someone that they met online … It’s very easy to pretend to be somebody else on the Internet,” she said.
Lynch said hackers, scammers and predators use multiple techniques to lure victims, but she said their goal is usually to obtain money.
Those who participate in the Safer Online Surfing program will learn to think twice the next time they click, send or reply.
“Bad guys are trying to find ways to change their game just a little bit so that maybe you will fall for that next scheme,” Lynch said.
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