Friday, March 9, 2007

Internet Safety is Everyone's Job


This year, I took on a major parent event addressing online safety. This is an area of increasing concern for parents and since I am pretty Internet savvy, I thought I would take up the challenge. I participated in online training with the I-Safe organization which promotes online safety with free materials. I organized a planning meeting where I invited local Information Technologists and law enforcement officers to give input. Then I planned the presentation and publicized it to the media. It was a successful night with about 50 people in attendance. I had never organized an event of that size before and it was a lot of work, but well worth the effort.

I first learned of the iSafe organization at a Technology Coordinator's meeting. One of my fellow Tech Coordinators was presenting the iSafe information to the attendees and I immediately knew I had to do this for the parents at TJMS. It is something I wanted to do but lacked the neccessary knowledge to create the information by myself. ISafe is a non-profit group who creates materials and informational videos for teachers, parents, and community members to use for educating students, other parents, and the community at large about the dangers of the Internet and how to be safe.
I chose to bring in members of the community to supplement the prepared informational handouts. I contacted a friend of mine in IT Security who put me in touch with a man from his company who presents to parent and student groups. I also contacted local law enforcement to get an Internet Crimes officer to come out. I was lucky to have the Frederick County Sherrif agree to be part of the evening. He brought along one of his deputies who presents Internet safety to schools
One of the goals of iSafe is to spread the word about their organization. They want as many people as possible to push for education about safety online. I worked with parents to get up to three parents to take the iSafe training to be certified iSafe instructors. At the parent night, four main topics were presented to the attendees.

  1. Avoiding Online Predators
  2. Recognizing and dealing with Cybyer Bullies
  3. Cyber Security
  4. Identity Theft

Because I had been studying ways to hold effective parents nights, I wanted to give parents the opportunity to sign up for seperate topic sessions where they could get additional information from one of our experts. I also knew that to get exposure to the most number of parents, I would have to hold the topic nights on several occasions. This would give parents the opportunity to go to all four or pick and choose the ones they wanted.

To promote the event, I contacted local radio, newspaper and television stations to run an ad as a Public Service Announcement. Both radio stations in Frederick ran a piece about the parent night. The newspaper printed the event, but did not come to report on it. The television station did not return my phone calls. We even used the FCPS email blaster list to promote the event. In the end, we had about 50 parents and community members show up. I was hoping for about 100 but people told me that 50 was an excellent turn out. So I was pleased that we had that many people come to learn about being safe online.

As it turned out, very few parents signed up for the seperate break out sessions. So we decided to cancel them. However, when we do this event next year, I will start promoting it earlier to get more people. I would also get parents to become certified iSafe presenters sooner since they were apprehensive about presenting to parents with only a little time to prepare.

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