Internet program getting good results

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    By Britney Holman

    Utah Valley schools involved with i-SAFE America, an Internet safety program, are happy with the program”s results.

    I-SAFE America is a nonprofit organization based in Carlsbad, Calif., that now exists in all 50 states.

    The goal of the organization is to “educate every student in grades K-12 with curriculum that is designed to empower students to recognize techniques used by predators to deceive them, empower students to refuse requests for personal information, provide students with the tools they need to respond assertively and encourage students to report suspicious or dangerous contact,” according to the i-SAFE pamphlet.

    Teri Schroeder, president of i-SAFE, founded the organization in 1998 to help inform children about Internet safety.

    “It was really … through the voice of students that this foundation was established,” Schroeder said.

    Children had come and told her certain things were going on while they were online. Schroeder said she felt like informing the children was the right thing to do.

    Utah was one of the first states to pick up the program in 1998 with the help of the American Fork Police Department.

    “[Chief Terry Fox of the American Fork Police Department] is instrumental in helping us get the project launched internationally,” Schroeder said. “They”re just a very special police department to us, in terms of a foundation.”

    There are 13 schools in Utah County using the program, and more will be using it in the fall.

    Sherri Poulson, Payson High School PTA president and working mother of four, helps the i-SAFE America program by getting kids excited about Internet safety.

    They have art contests, writing contests and filmmaking contests to make the program more fun, Poulson said.

    She also works to get the students excited by using the help of other students. One way Poulson encourages the children to help her pass out flyers and pamphlets is by dressing them in a raisin costume and holding a sign that reads, ”we”re raisin” awareness about Internet safety.””

    “I can do it at any of the schools and they will help me,” she said.

    In the past, Poulson was not well versed with computers and did not realize the problems that occurred online.

    “I started looking into Internet safety information when I realized that my children knew far more information about the computer than I did,” Poulson said. She attended an Internet safety class at BYU and became aware of possible problems. Realizing the importance of Internet safety, Poulson searched for a program that could provide helpful tips for schools.

    Poulson has four children who attend elementary school to high school. They go to schools in the Nebo School District and are involved in the i-SAFE program.

    “If I tell [my kids to be careful], they always are saying, ”You are just being too overprotective, things like that really don”t happen,” but if you implement the program like this [in the schools], you can turn it into a fun program, and then the kids all have fun with it and are learning stuff at the same time,” she said.

    Teachers and police officers work together to instruct children about the program. There are five lessons. The instructor teaches four lessons and a police officer teaches one lesson.

    Blair Kerby, an officer with the Salem Police Department, does i-SAFE training for teachers and law enforcement officers in Nebo School District.

    “Some of the things we teach in i-Safe are profiles; you don”t want everybody to know who you are, where you”re at and everything you like,” Kerby said. “That”s information they don”t really need, because you don”t know who”s going to be looking at it.”

    Kerby said officers also talk to the children about safety issues and how to recognize online predators.

    Jim Young, assistant principal at American Fork Junior High, said the Junior High is starting their fifth year with the i-SAFE program this fall.

    “The first year we did the program we had it in our technology learning class for seventh-grade and eighth-grade we did the science [class] kids and then the ninth-grade we did assemblies for them,” Young said. Now i-SAFE is just used in the seventh-grade technology learning class, he said.

    “It”s very well accepted, the teachers love teaching about it because it goes right along with the class … and just every kid is getting that,” Young said.

    Trevor Whitlock, a ninth grader from American Fork Junior High School, was awarded the Most Valuable Mentor Award May 25, 2004. Whitlock, the American Fork Police Department and the school created a film that took first place in the 1st annual i-SAFE National Filmmaker Contest. The film will be used to educate students about Internet safety across the nation.

    “For it to go all across the nation I feel really honored because hopefully I”ll be able to save some people from that fate,” Whitlock said.

    Young said schools need an Internet safety program because there are so many things out there on the Internet.

    “I-SAFE has been so good to work with,” Young said. “They have a nice big Web site, and they have newsletters every month that talk about what”s going on in different parts of the country. You can call there any time and talk to anybody, and they can give you what information you need.”

    I-SAFE also provides other programs.

    “I-SAFE does have the material to help parents,” Poulson said. “They are very much into uniting things, they have a program for the community and for all the kids. They want the parents, the kids, the police force, the city, they want everybody to work together so that everybody is educated on it.”

    I-SAFE is funded by the Federal Department of Justice. All materials are free and can be ordered online at www.isafe.org.

    “It”s a cool program because they don”t even make the communities pay for the postage to ship it,” said Sgt. Rick Bockman of the American Fork Police Department.

    The program also flies out certified instructors to train i-SAFE teachers, he said.

    I-SAFE paid for Bockman to present the program around the country. Bockman brought the program to Utah and wrote the law enforcement curriculum. He now teaches the program in the Alpine School District.

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