Last week, students at Sierra Verde STEAM Academy in Glendale got a lesson on playing safe online, courtesy of the company that is leading the narrative behind internet safety, Google. Along with Rep. Debbie Lesko (CD-8), middle school students got a thorough picture of the growing trends in internet safety.
The “Online Safety Roadshow: How to Be Internet Awesome,” a 45-minute presentation, focused on five tips for staying safe and protected while being smart during internet use. Topics such as sharing with care, setting strong passwords, settings for different apps and sites, online scams, and being kind were presented and unpackaged.
“The internet has changed our way of life and keeps us connected,” Congresswoman Debbie Lesko said. “As our reliance on the internet evolves—especially for students—it is important to know how to stay safe and protect our privacy while online. I thank Google for visiting Arizona’s 8th District with me today at Sierra Verde STEAM Academy to show students how to be safe and smart on the internet.”
Rep. Lesko participated in the event, which was led by two Google employees Jamie Hill and David Sanchez, and opened the assembly by stressing the importance of online safety, kindness, and dangers to the students.
“We need open dialogue with students and to continue events like these where we can show students what it means to be safe online,” Lesko said. “Many people think they know when an email or link is phishing, but 10% of people are still taking the bait.”
Hill and Sanchez, who challenged the kids to come up with the strongest possible password, used visuals and polling questions that the students answered with paddle-signs with a green check and red “X”. The students used the paddles to answer questions about if it is good to share funny and harmless videos and images compared to those that are embarrassing and mean-spirited.
Google launched its “Internet Awesome” program in 2017 after seeing the harmful effects of internet trolling and bullying, especially in middle schools across the United States. The presenters stressed the importance of the middle school years, ages 11-14, and how important that age range is for students when it comes to learning about what good online behavior is.
“With students having greater access to the internet through cell phones, tablets and other devices, it is important that they learn to use these tools responsibly,” said Hill. “The Online Safety Roadshow: How to Be Internet Awesome teaches students how to be smart and safe online in today’s interconnected world.”
“Kids are learning that what they share and post online can easily spread to a much larger audience than what they intended,” Lesko said. “The ability to go ‘viral’ online is much easier than they think, and what they post can catch up with them. We often think if we delete something it will be gone forever, but with technology these days, that is just not the case.”