BENNINGTON -- Fourth and fifth-graders at Monument Elementary were briefed Tuesday afternoon on the importance of Internet safety and on how to prevent cyber bullying through a program organized by Prevent Child Abuse Vermont, known as Technicool.
The presentation proved to be timely, according to Principal Donna Cawley, as fourth and fifth-graders will all be receiving Kuno tablets before the end of the month, as part of a Bennington School District-wide "One to One" initiative, which aims to provide each student in the district with a tablet to enhance their educational experience.
"We didn't only invite Daniel to speak because we are getting the tablets," said Cawley. "This is education that kids constantly need to be reminded of. It's very valuable information."
Daniel Ozimek, the Technicool coordinator and trainer, gave the comprehensive presentation to students, beginning by helping the children identify what they liked to do online.
Answers varied from games to social networking to streaming videos.
Ozimek praised their answers and enthusiasm, noting that technology is meant to be fun, but that it is important to be safe while having fun.
He explained to students the six components of technology safety, including understanding that everything on the Internet is public and ensuring that all personal information is protected.
A thought hammered home throughout the presentation by Ozimek was the idea of maintaining a positive online image and reputation.
Students were asked to give the thumbs-up or thumbs-down to various phrases during the presentation, denoting whether or not what they were reading could be construed as positive or negative.
"We have to be careful about what we say online," Ozimek said. "In real-life, when you say something, you think about what you say before you say it. We should do the same thing online."
He advised students that if they are confused about whether or not something could be considered negative, to run it by an adult before posting it, just to be safe.
To help students decide for themselves, he provided these guidelines:
1. Do I want this to be permanent?
2. Could what I'm writing get someone in trouble?
3. Is this hurtful?
4. Could this be taken wrong?
5. Would this embarrass me?
Ozimek also noted the importance of having friends in "real-life" be the friends added online on any social networking or gaming site, like Facebook, and not to interact with strangers.
In addition, Ozimek shared information with students pertaining to cyber bullying.
He advised students to always tell adults what they are doing online, so that activity can be closely monitored.
Ozimek also explained to the students what exactly constituted online abuse, and how and when to report it.
"You are never all alone," he told the students. "If you are ever cyber bullied, the first thing you need to do is talk to an adult about it."
According to Ozimek, cyber bullying is illegal in the state of Vermont, and can include anything from sharing an embarrassing photo, private conversation with an unwanted party, posting mean or threatening comments, or sharing personal information without consent.
Following the presentation, Ozimek said that the main reason he makes these presentations in schools is to educate students about cyber bullying, which, he said has become a huge problem in schools to date.
"It's really important to talk to kids in and out of school about technology safety, what's okay, what's not okay," Ozimek said. "It's also important for adults to know how to keep kids safe online because it should never hurt to be a child."
Ozimek gave a similar presentation to parents of the fourth and fifth-grade students Tuesday evening in Monument Elementary's library.
Parents with questions regarding Internet safety can contact Ozimek at email@example.com.
Contact Elizabeth A. Conkey at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @bethconkey.