Monday, September 25th, 2017


In an increasingly digital world, web experts and parents stress the importance of teaching students good habits in online safety.

Google has launched an effort in spreading that message across the country, and on Monday its Online Safety Roadshow arrived at River Bend Middle School in Sterling.

Google representative presented the 45-minute assembly to River Bend’s sixth graders. Eleven- to 13-year-old children are the largest targets of online predators, Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.-10) said in opening remarks.

According to the Google presentation, one in three teens share their password with a friend. Google spokeswoman Jamie Hill said this is the No. 1 problem she hears from school administrators.

“Your friend today may not be your friend tomorrow,” Hill said.

The presentation has gone around to 45 states and nearly 100 schools, Hill said. Students are quick to learn their online and offline lives are not separate and urged to pick what they share online carefully because it could impact things like their ability to play on sports teams, getting a summer job or internship or even college admissions.

Students also learn things they share privately can still be copied and forward, how to identify offers that are “too good to be true,” not to click suspicious links, to share suspicious content with a trusted adult, know posting settings and to treat others on the Internet as they would like to be treated.

Each student also received a handout to take home on additional resources for Internet safety to share with parents.

Comstock said it is important for parents to stay up to date on how online predators try to take advantage of young teens, particularly human traffickers.

Although Loudoun is among the safest municipalities in the Washington D.C. Metro area, human trafficking is still a problem, Comstock said. Sometimes it takes the form of an 18 year old courting a 12 or 13 year old, or someone online luring teens to shopping centers like Tysons Corner. Seventy percent of human trafficking cases involving teens start with online targeting, Comstock said.

The congresswoman also said it’s important for kids to know if they do come in contact with an online predator, it is never their fault, and they should not feel ashamed in telling a parent. Human traffickers will often use that shame against victims to keep them from telling anyone. It’s up to parents and teens to know the latest safety information so they can intervene if someone they care about becomes involved in an unsafe situation.

“With Google giving them these tips, this is a big part in the prevention,” Comstock said. “We want to have all of the good aspects of the internet known and utilized and they can be if you use all these protections.”


For this article, and more from the Loudoun Times-Mirror, please click here.