Keeping Kids Safe on the Internet Starts with Teaching Them the Rules of the Information Highway

Naperville, IL, February 17, 1999 — For today’s children, trips to faraway lands, access to library and museum collections worldwide and conversations with scientists and scholars are just a mouse-click away. Access to the Internet has opened the doors to what was once only accessible through maps, textbooks or documentary videos — that are often outdated even before reaching the classroom.

According to Quality Education Data (QED), 81.8 percent of K-12 schools are connected to the Internet. And based on plans for the 1998-99 school year, QED projects that 95.9 percent of public schools will be connected to the Internet by the end of the 1998-99 school year.

As more children connect to the Internet at home and at school, they must learn to be street smart- even on electronic highways. One of the biggest challenges to online safety for children is the “cybergap” that often exists between children and adults. Even technologically savvy parents and teachers are facing the challenges of dealing with children whose computer skills and capabilities have surpassed their own.

That’s why Microsoft, in cooperation with the Naperville (Ill.) Police Department’s Internet Crimes Unit (NPD) and the Illinois Attorney General’s Internet Task Force, today launched a Web site that helps parents and educators teach children the fundamental “rules of the road” for safe exploration on the information highway. Called SafeKids, the Web site features a presentation by police officers on Internet safety and a teacher’s training guide. The materials are designed for teachers or parents with a broad range of personal experience with technology. Microsoft worked with the NPD to develop the Web site so these important tools would be free and readily available to anyone wishing to take advantage of them.

In a special student assembly at Wheatland Elementary School in Naperville, IL, Microsoft and NPD representatives were joined by a number of local dignitaries, including the city’s mayor, George Pradel, to preview the Web site and Teacher’s Guide.

NPD Detective Mike Sullivan told the audience that Internet crimes against children are completely preventable through parental education and involvement. According to Sullivan, parents should establish clear house rules for computer use, always know what their kids are up to on line, and spend time teaching them basic safety skills.

“A parent would never drop a child off a park to play without teaching them about strangers. The Internet is no different,” Sullivan said. “Adults should approach computers and the Internet in the same manner. Computers ultimately link kids to the outside world. It is up to us as parents to make sure they are prepared for this.”

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