Education

Google Teaches Canfield Students Internet Safety

CANFIELD, Ohio – The students at Canfield Middle School are growing up in the Information Age and are the first generation to have the Internet for their entire lives.

That’s why safe browsing and social media posting is so crucial for these students, representatives from Google say.

“The Internet connects us all in ways that were never before possible. What we share online and who you share it with can end up seeing a lot of action,” said Nicole Premo, one of the presenters for the Google Online Safety Roadshow at the school Monday morning.

Her fellow presenter, Joe Abernethy, picked up where she left off: “To create the best possible online version of yourself, the No. 1 tip is to think before you share. That means that anything you post online – any picture, any text message, any Instagram post – has the potential to be shared beyond who you meant it to [be shared with].”

In a half-hour presentation, the duo provided five tips to the students of the middle school: 1) Think before you share, 2) Protect your stuff, 3) Know and use your settings, 4) Avoid scams and 5) Be positive.

The first tip encouraged students to follow the Golden Rule – treat others the way you want to be treated. No. 2 discussed how to create strong passwords and not sharing passwords with friends.

For settings, Abernethy showed the pitfalls of what can happen when posts or events aren’t properly secured, including a post about a birthday party that went viral and resulted in arrests being made for rioting.

Students were also offered tips on how to notice and avoid phishing scams, such as avoiding websites that require you to enter personal information to claim a prize and checking the URL before following suspicious emails.

“This is the time when they’re getting that first cell phone or device,” said Google spokeswoman Jamie Hill. “It’s important for them to pick up those practices early on so that as they start to use that technology later on, they’re safe and using it responsibly.”

The lessons, Hill noted, aren’t just aimed at middle school students. The five tips discussed are applicable to everyone, businesses included.

“This information is great for anyone at any age. This happens to be a fun presentation for middle schoolers, but thinking about these things as a business is crucial,” she said.

To keep the kids – two sessions were held, one with the fifth and sixth graders and a second with the seventh and eighth grade students – interested, Premo and Abernethy had a few interactive games set up, including have students test the strength of their password against Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6 Ohio.

Ally Quirk entered “Alexandra123654,” and narrowly lost to Johnson’s “Ccms@rdinal$. The results were measured by Google’s password strength algorithm.

“The bad guys are out there. Those who have the wherewithal to get into our systems or wreak havoc over the Internet are probing at about a million times per second,” Johnson said after the presentation. “Who’s vulnerable? Anyone who doesn’t know how to protect themselves online.”

Johnson, who holds two degrees in computer science, noted the importance of informing the kids about Internet security.

“I’ve been doing this for 30-plus years, so I understand cybersecurity and how our networks operate. But it’s all changing so very fast that we could all stand to pay attention,” he said. “These young people are a part of that. It’s important that they know the rules of the road. And I think they’re smart enough to get it.”

Parents were also invited to the event, said Canfield superintendent Alex Jordan. Several showed up and participated in the true-or-false game held periodically throughout the show.

“There are adults who might not be quite sure how this happens for our kids. There are ways for youngsters to get online and post something, maybe a picture or text, which can take off within seconds without parents knowing what’s going on,” Jordan said. “Kids will get away with what they can. It’s the adults who need to make sure they take control of what’s happening in their homes.”

The students at the presentation seemed to take away the lessons Abernethy and Premo were looking to impart, including not sharing passwords.

“I’ve shared my passwords with my friends, but they haven’t shared or changed anything before,” said Nick Crawford, an eighth-grade student. “It helped me understand how to be private and not post or share things that I’ll regret later on.”

Chloe Kalina, also in eighth grade, said she was going to change her passwords as soon as she got home.

The Online Safety Roadshow will be in Mentor on Tuesday, North Canton on Wednesday and in Toledo on Friday. More information, including the slideshow used by Abernethy and Premo, can be found at Google.com/safetycenter.

Pictured: Nicole Premo, one of the presenters for the Google Online Safety Roadshow, speaks to students at Canfield Middle School.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.