Keeping kids safe in cyberspace was high on the priority list for Scott Air Force Base Cyberspace Squadron members who visited two O’Fallon schools in the spirit National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.
Airmen paid a visit to O’Fallon School District 90 LaVerna Evans Elementary on Oct. 16, and Central SD 104 Elementary on Oct. 20.
“Each year our effort continues to grow, and this year we have been able to reach out to over 4,200 students in the community to bring about cybersecurity awareness. We have had many successful events this year,” said Donald “Eric” Amos, chairman of the Scott AFB’s NCSAM School visit committee.
Teaching fourth- and fifth-graders how to protect themselves and their private information online can be difficult, said Ryan Keller, the principal at Evans.
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“I remember when I was their age, and the concept of protecting your name and address and other stuff was something you did when talking to strangers ‘in the flesh,’ so to speak. Today’s world is so different, and kids have to protect themselves from these faceless entities,” Keller said.
The presentations included relatable information for younger students on how to protect yourself online by never giving their name and information to someone they don’t know, or posting it to a website or social media profile page.
“You never want to reveal who or where you are to anyone, because once it’s online, it stays there forever,” said Maj. Gerod M. Bonhoff, who led the Evans interactive presentation.
Further reiterating the message, Bonhoff said, “You don’t want to talk about (personal information) online at all, because you don’t know who it is or who is out there.”
YAPPY (your name, addresses, phone number, passwords, your plans) is an acronym that has grown popular with “Internet Safety with Professor Garfield,” cartoons, which the SAFB members used to help students to remember how to stay safe online.
“Just like when you’re walking down the street and someone asks you to get in their car with you and you don’t know them, what do you do? Run away and tell an adult. So we don’t want to talk to anyone online that we don’t know, either, because it could be just as dangerous,” Bonhoff said.
Evans fourth-grade teachers weighed in on the necessity of cybersafety, especially since Google accounts begin with third grade for online learning activities.
“I think it’s important, because these kids get on tablets in the classroom,” said teacher Jennifer Ellis.
“It’s all about protecting the kids, and that’s why we agreed to do this, because we use the Google accounts a lot,” said Monica Winkeler, another teacher.