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Google and Redmond police address online safety for everyone

Evergreen Middle School eighth-grader Cameron Edward puts her password-creating skills to the test during an all-school assembly on online safety on Monday. - Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter
Evergreen Middle School eighth-grader Cameron Edward puts her password-creating skills to the test during an all-school assembly on online safety on Monday.
— image credit: Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter

The Internet can be a useful tool to help students research for a homework assignment or project.

But with summer just a few short weeks away, the need to do online research goes down and the penchant to surf the web goes up.

In an effort to ensure students use the Internet safely and appropriately while school is out, Evergreen Middle School (EMS) held an assembly Monday afternoon on how to do this.

“This is a strong reminder to students before leaving for summer vacation about online safety,” said EMS principal Sean Cassidy. “We want our students to be well-informed and make positive choices while having fun with online media, social networking and technological opportunities that are available to them.”

RESOURCES FOR EVERYONE

The assembly, dubbed the “Online Safety Roadshow,” was presented by Google and featured information, tips and advice for students, though they could be applied to Internet users of all ages, said Google spokesperson Jamie Hill.

She said Google has an online safety center (www.google.com/safetycenter) with many resources for teachers and parents, but they didn’t have a way to relate to students and young people. Through this need came the “Online Safety Roadshow,” which launched in September 2013 and has been presented in 25-30 states nationwide, Hill said.

“We’ve had a great response so far,” she said.

The interactive assembly gives students a chance to put their Internet knowledge and skills to the test as they answer questions — which, on Monday, were posed by presenters Karissa Locke and Emma Ogiemwanye.

“There are some really smart ways to use the Internet,” Locke told students. “There are also some not-so-smart ways to use the Internet.”

She and Ogiemwanye offered tips to the students.

THINK BEFORE YOU SHARE

The first tip was for them to think before they shared. The two women stressed how what a person shares and who they share it with online can say a lot about them and it can impact many things in the future, ranging from summer jobs to college admissions to making a sports team.

This was a fact that surprised Rebecca Bailey. The seventh-grader said she never realized how easy it can be to access information about a person.

In addition, Locke and Ogiemwanye said there is the potential for even personal messages to become public as a person does not have control over anything after they hit “send.”

“Anything you post can go viral,” Ogiemwanye said. “Once a screenshot is taken, it can be shared over and over.”

Laura Murphy, an officer for the Redmond Police Department (RPD), agreed.

“Once you put it out there, you can’t get it back,” she said about posting things online.

Murphy, who has been with RPD for 18 years and has a background in electronic crime, said with the Internet, information can be shared instantly and it won’t take long before almost everyone on a school campus has seen a photo or message that was meant to be private. She said this leads to individuals feeling harassed and depressed, which may lead to suicidal thoughts.

“That certainly occurs in our city, for sure,” she said.

PROTECTED PASSWORDS

The second tip Locke and Ogiemwanye offered students was to protect their stuff, meaning using strong passwords and to not share these passwords except with a parent or other trusted adult. They told students a strong password is at least eight characters, includes letters, numbers and symbols. Locke and Ogiemwanye also advised students to make sure to log out of their various accounts before leaving public computers or devices used by others.

Bailey and a few other EMS students’ password-creating skills were put to the test as they participated in a challenge against Congresswoman Suzan DelBene of the 1st Congressional District — who was also in attendance Monday — to see who could create the strongest passwords.

“All these things were so different when I was a middle schooler,” DelBene said about students’ access to information and other things online.

While she acknowledged how helpful this may be, DelBene added, “There’s also dangers.”

The importance of having a strong password was a very important lesson for Bailey as well as fellow seventh-grader Martin Shi and eighth-grader Cameron Edward. All three students said this piece of information now has them rethinking their own passwords.

“I definitely want to make it better,” Edward said about her passwords.

PRIVACY SETTINGS AND ONLINE DANGERS

The third tip Locke and Ogiemwanye offered was for students to know and use their settings to control what people see.

“Manage your settings so that family, friends and strangers can only see what you want them to see,” Ogiemwanye told the youngsters.

Murphy said even if a person has managed their privacy settings, they still can’t control what happens to information once they post or send it because their friends may still be able to share it with others.

“You can only secure information so much,” she said.

Ogiemwanye and Locke also offered tips on how to avoid scams.

“If it seems fishy, then it probably is,” Ogiemwanye said.

She and Locke told the students that legitimate websites will never ask users for their account information so that should be a red flag for them.

Many times, scams may appear real because the websites often look like real websites such as email login pages — something Shi said he found informative.

In addition to looking out for scams, Murphy said kids and parents also need to watch out for predators. She said some things parents can look out for is if their son or daughter wants to spend a lot of time online chatting with people or starts receiving gifts in the mail such as cameras or cell phones. She said this is typical grooming behavior for predators, and at this point, parents need to question their children about who they are talking to online.

One way to keep better track of kids’ behavior online is to keep computers and other devices in a common area in the house such as the living room. Murphy said trouble usually begins when a child or teen goes into their room to use a computer.

“Parents just have to take charge of their child’s computer,” she said.

For more tips on how to stay safe online, Murphy recommended the website, www.netsmartz.org, which offers tips for parents, kids and teens.

THE GOLDEN RULE

The final tip Locke and Ogiemwanye offered students was to be positive, telling students to use the Golden Rule and to treat others as they would want to be treated. Ogiemwanye even challenged them to post one positive thing to someone’s social media page per day.

Bailey said she really liked this idea and intends to try doing this.

In this same light, Locke and Ogiemwanye said if students see something cruel or inappropriate online, they should report it.

Cassidy added that this type of behavior falls in line with many of the things they try to each the students at EMS.

“This (assembly) also continues a theme for our students to ‘be kind’ and practice pro-social behaviors that we have addressed throughout the year in our student handbook, WEB (Where Everyone Belongs),” he said.

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