Saturday, December 20, 2008

RIAA Stops Massive Piracy Lawsuits

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the RIAA is shifting its strategy against people who illegally upload and download copyright protected music online. Instead of threatening individuals with lawsuits and demands of cash settlements, the RIAA will partner up with internet service providers to try and stop people from sharing copyrighted music. Instead of sending letters to ISPs demanding the identity of illegal file sharers and then sueing those customers, the RIAA will let the ISP know when one of it's customers is making copyrighted music available online. The ISP will then send the customer a communication asking them to cease making those files available. If they do not comply, the ISP may slow down, or even cut off internet service to the offender. The RIAA will still sue people who continue to upload and share large amounts of copyrighted material, but they are going to be much more selective about it than they have been for the past five years.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Heads Up Internet Explorer Users

If you use Internet Explorer for your web browsing, you may want to switch to Firefox for a little while. According to published reports, there is a serious security flaw that has been exploited in Internet Explorer. The security flaw can make a user's computer vulnerable to being hijacked. This can happen when the user is tricked into clicking on to a website that contains some malicious code. When the user clicks on a link to the site, they may inadvertently allow hackers to take over their system without even knowing it. Internet security software company, Trend Micro, reports that as many as 10,000 websites have been compromised since last week. Microsoft released some work arounds for the problem which includes changing the security settings in your browser to "high". In order to change your security settings in Explorer, you need to go to the tools section of the menu bar and choose internet options. This should help to limit any attacks on the computer. You could also switch to a different browser including, Firefox or Google's new browser, Chrome, while Microsoft fixes the problem.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cyber Safety Resource Spotlights!

Teachers are always looking for more resources to teach cybersafety in their classroom. We haven't posted a new CyberSafety Resource spotlight in a while, so here are a few new ones and some oldies but goodies! is a resource we have mentioned before, but has gone through a redesign since we last posted it. This site has a number of links to other cybersafety websites and lessons that teachers can use in their classroom. The front page of the site lists the top 8 Cyber Security Practices with links to explanations and resources for each. An excellent resource for all!

Project Safe Childhood

From the US Department of Justice comes project safe childhood. Project Safe Childhood is a national public awareness campaign designed to warn parents about the possible dangers their children may face from online predators. They have released some video PSA's in both English and Spanish that outline those dangers. The main message from these videos to parents is that The site also contains some links to other cybersafety resources.
is another resource we have linked to before. They offer a free internet safety curriculum for teachers to use in their classrooms. They have also recently redesigned their site and have updated their safety lessons to reflect the current internet safety research, including a new cyberbullying package of lessons and activities. They offer free K-12 curriculum covering five units of internet safety. The lessons are aligned to the NETS standards for students which were updated in 2007.

NetFamily News

I know I have showcased this resource before, and it is a link on the BPS cybersafety website, but I can't stress enough how great a resource it is for learning about current issues of internet safety and the impact of technology use on children. Ann Collier, does a fantastic job of finding articles and resources to share with caregivers and educators about internet safety. Every time I visit the site, or receive her e-newsletter, there is something valuable I learn from it. This site is a must read.

PBS Frontline - Growing Up Online

If you haven't seen this documentary on PBS already, then you can catch it online from the PBS website. In Growing Up Online, FRONTLINE takes viewers inside the very public private worlds that kids are creating online, raising important questions about how the Internet is transforming childhood. The website includes a teachers guide to use with students.

BPS CyberSafety Website

Of course, there is the Boston Public School's CyberSafety Campaign which features the BPS CyberSafety Heroes. You can download materials from the site and listen to the cybersafety rap song. All the materials on the site were created by high school students from the Boston Public Schools. If you are interested in learning more about the materials or receiving a copy of any of the materials such as the BPS internet safety movie or comic book, please click here.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Three High Profile Internet Safety Cases

Conviction in Megan Meier Case

There has been a conviction in the closely watched cyberbullying trial of Lori Drew. You can read about the Lori Drew case in an earlier post in this blog. The synopsis of the story is that a young girl named Meghan Meier committed suicide after being duped on MySpace by a former friend and her mother. Megan had a falling out with her friend, so her former friend and her friend's mother, Lori, and another woman created a fake profile on MySpace to trick Megan. They created a boy named Josh who befriended Megan and then abruptly ended their relationship. Megan, who was already battling depression, committed suicide shortly after the incident. Lori Drew was convicted on three misdemeanor counts of identity fraud.

The conviction, if it stands, could have far-reaching implications for all kinds of websites on the internet. While the act of the Drew family is considered "cyberbullying", Lori Drew wasn't actually convicted of cyberbullying. The conviction is for computer fraud and stems from her breaking the agreement of the terms of service from MySpace for misrepresenting her identity. One of the defenses' main arguments is that Lori Drew checked the Terms of Service box when she created the MySpace account, but never actually read the terms of service and therefore didn't know what she was doing is illegal. There is also an interesting article in which the forewoman of the jury from the case states that the majority of jurors wanted to convict Lori Drew on felony charges.

Julie Amero Spyware Case is Closed

You may remember the case of Julie Amero. She was the substitute teacher who was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison for endangering minors in 2004. Prosecutors argued that Amero had put students at risk by exposing them to pornographic images that were popping up on a classroom computer. After reading about the case, some computer security professionals came to Julie's defense, saying that she was a victim of Spyware on a poorly configured computer. Amero was granted a new trial and recently decided to settle out of court. She pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct and has had her teaching credentials revoked. You can read an interview with Amero about the entire incident from Computerworld.

Harvard Law Professor takes on the RIAA

Well known Harvard Law professor Charles Nesson has decided to take on the way the Recording Industry prosecutes college students for illegaly downloading music. The RIAA will usually send a letter to the college student asking for between $3000 - $5000 and an assurance that the illegal downloading will stop. If they do not comply, they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. At least one judge is finding that these students and their families do not have lawyers and do not know their full legal rights, and therefore pay the settlement. Nesson and his law students contend that the RIAA is using civil litigation to punish alleged criminal activity, which in their view is unconstitutional. It should be very interesting to see how this case pans out.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Study Released on Teens and Digital Media

Guess what adults...Social Networking isn't that bad after all...who knew?

Some people hear the names of sites like MySpace, FaceBook, YouTube and Second Life and immediately their minds conjure up images of cyberbullies, online predators, and online scammers just waiting to steal the identities of unsuspecting internet users. This blog also publicizes those dangers on a regular basis. Every now and again a story or a study comes out with the positive ways in which web 2.0 technologies are being used by teenagers. This past week, a New York Times article reported on a study released by the MacArthur Foundation. In the study, it was found that teens who socialize online develop important social and technical skills. In the article, one of the lead researchers of the study said that, "their participation is giving them the technological skills and literacy they need to succeed in the contemporary world. They’re learning how to get along with others, how to manage a public identity, how to create a home page.” Researchers found that teenagers tend to fall into two distinct categories of engagement with digital media, "friendship-driven participation" and "interest-driven participation". The teens that fall in the friendship driven category, tend to hang out and communicate online with existing friends while teens in the interest driven category seek out information from online communities dedicated to that particular interest. These online communities are usually outside of the teen's local peer group and can consist of other teens and adults from around the world. The study also shows that teens are very interested in learning from their peers online and that the internet provides a platform in which youth can submit ideas or work and receive feedback from people all over the world. These teens tend to explore new interests and tinker with various forms of new media. Through these experiences, they acquire new technical and media skills. The teens in this interest-driven category tend to become self-directed learners and invite feedback from their peers. A report on the study also pointed out this very important detail:

most youth are not taking full advantage of the learning opportunities of the Internet. While most youth use the Internet socially, they may overlook learning opportunities. Serious learning opportunities are abundant online in such subjects as astronomy, history, creative writing, and foreign languages. Youth can connect with people in different locations and of different ages who share their interests, making it possible follow pursuits that might not be popular or valued with their local peer groups.

It is always important for parents and caretakers to be aware of who teens are socializing with online and what they are posting on their profiles, but it is also equally important to encourage teens to be creative, take positive risks, and learn new things...just like they should offline.

An executive summary of the study can be found here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What You Post Online Can Have Consequences!

Students need to be aware of what they and their friends are putting about themselves online. As more and more teens (and tweens!) post pictures, videos and information about themselves on social networking sites, they need to understand that what they post could have serious consequences whether they like it or not. Let's take a former New England Patriots cheerleader as one example. Fox news reported last week that a New England Patriots cheerleader was dismissed from the squad because of some photographs that surfaced on various web sites, including the extremely popular social networking website, Facebook. The photos, which were of the cheerleader and an unconscious man at a party, featured some very objectionable content written on the individual she was pictured with. As a result, the Patriots let her go from the squad.

This is another example in which photos posted and shared online can have some negative consequences in your professional life. Now, there can arguments made that the Patriots overreacted, or that online pictures shouldn't be a factor of your employment, but the fact is that more and more employers and schools are taking these things into serious consideration when deciding the fate of prospective employees or students. In fact some employers and college admissions officers are searching Social Networking sites of prospective applicants to get an idea of the type of person they might be hiring or accepting into their educational institution. It is very important that students are aware of their "digital footprint". What images of themselves are they posting online? What types of photos are their friends posting? Sometimes, it is a friend or acquaintance that may post an inappropriate photograph of you online, and usually, once it is online you have no control over that image or video. Career Builder released a survey earlier this fall which states that one-in-five employers use social networking sites to do research on their job applicants. The article also adds that one-third of those hiring managers have found content that caused them to dismiss the candidates from consideration. The two top areas of concern were about job candidates who posted information about themselves drinking or using illegal drugs, and candidates who posted provocative or inappropriate photographs of themselves.

On the other hand, sometimes a good online image can be beneficial to you. In the same survey, 24% of hiring managers that did research on potential job applicants stated that they found content that help solidify their decision to hire the candidate. The top two positive factors that helped influence the hiring decision were that the candidate's background supported their qualifications for the job and that the candidate had good communication skills. So, a more professional social networking profile can actually increase your chances of getting a job.

Teenagers and adults both need to understand that what they post online can have consequences in their professional lives. Eric Esteves, from TechBoston, went out to Boston Asian Youth Essential to speak to a group of teenagers about this very topic. He didn't tell students that they shouldn't be online, or that they shouldn't have social networking pages. He encouraged them to be careful about what they are posting. He explained to them that even though they can set their own profiles to private, photographs of themselves might get posted publicly by their friends. He had a good rule of thumb, which was not to post anything that you wouldn't want your parents or grandparents to see. He wasn't there to discourage the students from using social networking, but to encourage them to use it in a positive manner.

For more information on safe social networking for teens, please check out these links:

Social Networking Safety Tips from the Federal Trade Commission

NetSmartz 411 - How to keep my child safer while using a social networking website

Monday, November 10, 2008

Phishing Video Explanation

Common Craft is a company that creates videos that help to educate the public about different types of technology. They try to make the videos as straightforward as possible with little high tech jargon so that they are easy to understand. They do a fantastic job of explaining things like blogs, wikis, social networking and other web 2.0 technologies with a set of videos called "In Plain English". They recently posted a video entitled Phishing Scams in Plain English. The video does a nice job of explaining what some phishing scams are and who to contact if you are being targeted.

Phishing Scams in Plain English from leelefever on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Congress Passes Bill That Promotes Internet Safety

Schools systems around the country may be required to educate their students about internet safety in order to receive e-Rate funds according to the recently passed Broadband Data Improvement Act. According to an article in e-School News, The law includes language from an earlier proposed bill called the Protecting Children in the 21st Century. The language that the new law included from the proposed Protecting Children in the 21st Century act requires schools receiving e-Rate funds to teach students about appropriate behavior on social networking and chat room web sites, as well as the dangers of cyber bullying.The bill also says that the Federal Trade Commission will conduct a nationwide program to "increase public awareness and provide education regarding strategies to promote the safe use of the Internet by children."

You can look at the actual law here

Monday, October 27, 2008

Superintendent's Bulletin Warns of Phishing Scheme

The Superintendent's Bi-Weekly bulletin had a warning for people that are receiving emails that claim to be from the City of Boston Credit Union. These emails are NOT from the City of Boston Credit Union. These emails are an example of phishing, which are emails sent to try and get the user to provide their personal information such as account numbers, passwords and social security numbers. According to the bulletin, these emails have been in several forms including the following:
  • Surveys with a cash reward if you enter your personal information
  • Implications that your account is in jeopardy of being closed unless you enter your information
  • A notice that we are updating our security enhancements, so please enter your personal information
  • Plus, many other schemes to entice people to enter their personal and confidential information.
All of these emails are fraudulent. This is a classic example of a phishing scheme. Once you input your personal information it is sent to a criminal who may use that information to commit identity fraud. They may also sell your information to a third party who may use it to open up credit cards or obtain loans in your name. Banks, credit unions, brokerage firms and other types of financial institutions will not send an email to ask you to input personal information! If you ever have any questions about whether or not your financial institution is looking for something from you, give them a call using the phone number from one of your financial statements.

Remember, it is always a good idea to periodically check your credit report with one of the three major credit agencies just to make sure you have not fallen victim to identity theft. By law, you are entitled to a free credit report once every twelve months from these agencies. The Federal Trade Commission website about identity theft is full of helpful information about strategies to avoid a problem and what to do if someone does steal your identity.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Internet Safety Poster Contest

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Information Technology is holding an internet safety poster contest for 4th and 5th grade students. The deadline for the contest is December 19, 2008 and here is what the judges are looking for:

  • Posters depicting Internet safety (being careful not to download viruses, not giving out personal information on the Internet, no cyberbullying, opening email only from people they know, be careful opening email attachments, don’t give your password to friends, don’t post personal pictures, don’t meet anyone “offline” that you’ve only met online).
  • Hand drawn (large, dark text is easier to read, crayons & markers work best).
  • Poster cannot include trademarked images such as Disney characters.
  • Spelling counts!
  • Size: 11” wide x 8.5” high (Landscape layout).
  • Each Poster Art entry must be accompanied by a completed School Entry Form.
  • One child per Poster Art entry and artwork.
  • Student’s name, school, town, grade, etc. should not be written on the front of the art work. In order to protect the student’s personal information, this type of information should be written on the back of the poster.
Contest Winners:
  • Three Grand Prize winners will be selected, and will be recognized by Governor Deval Patrick. The winning artwork will be submitted into The National Cyber Security Awareness 2010 Calendar Contest. The school contact person named on the School Entry Form will be notified by telephone as well as by email from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Information Technology Division personnel.
  • Any posters selected to be used in the MS-ISAC 2010 Cyber Security Awareness calendar will include the student’s first name and name of school.
  • Winning posters will be featured on our Security Web Site (
  • All entries submitted become the property of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Information Technology Division and may be used in future publications. Poster Art will not be returned.
Requests for poster entry forms and questions may be directed to Bob Milosavljevic, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Information Technology Division at 617-626-4490 or emailed at

You can also check out the Cyber Security Awareness Month web page for information, resources and webcasts about cyber safety!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Education Week Holds Live Chat on Cyberbullying sponsored a live chat focused on cyberbullying today. The chat featured Sameer Hinduja and Justin W. Patchin who are Internet-safety experts who are co-authors of the new book Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying. They also created, an information clearinghouse on cyberbullying.

One educator asked how can a teacher know that a student is being bullied, if most of the bullying happens out of school, online? Dr. Patchin answered that educators are very good at sensing when a student is distressed and to ask them what is causing their distress. He also says to make the student feel safe and welcome, so that they feel comfortable in talking to the teacher about the issue. This is extremely important as research shows that most kids do not tell teachers or their parents when they have been cyberbullied. I think another tell tale sign to look out for is if you have a student who is all of a sudden, chronically absent, or withdrawn from the other students in the class.

More than one participant in the chat asked what grades/ages are most affected by cyberbullying. The answer was that they seemed to see the most evidence of cyberbullying happening in 7th and 8th grade, which is also true of traditional bullying. They also suggest that cyberbulying prevention education should take place in elementary school.

Another educator asked a question, that I myself ask..."1. By definition, what is bullying? 2. What is cyberbullying?"

The answer to this question was:
Bullying can be defined as unprovoked aggression often directed repeatedly toward another individual or group of individuals. We define cyberbullying as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.” Conceptions of cyberbullying victimization must stem from the target's perspective.

Net Family News
had reported on a very interesting article from the Journal of Adolescent Health a couple of weeks ago questioning the definition of what cyberbullying is. Is it automatically cyberbullying when a kid gets an email or text message from someone else insulting them? Or is cyberbullying repeated harrassment of a victim over and over again? Are there levels of cyberbullying compared to cyberharrassment?

Another very common question that was asked was, "At what point does what appears on the Internet become a school issue/responsibility in terms of discipline?"

Dr. Hiduja answered:
"When it substantially or material disrupts learning, interferes with the educational process, compromises the value system that the school district and school are trying to foster, infringes upon another student's rights (civil rights or their ability to learn without distraction and harassment), when it is obscene, when school-owned technology is used to mistreat others, and when it involves a school-sponsored activity or a school-sponsored resource. With this said, we encourage informal responses and only suggest formal responses (changes of placement, suspensions, expulsions) in severe cases."

Other questions and topics that were discussed were about online gaming and cyberbullying as well as parent education, acceptable use policies, teacher and student education. I encourage you to read the entire transcript of the chat, it is full of information about cyberbullying.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Listen to the "Be Safe" CyberSafety Song

The BPS Cyber Superheroes long awaited release of the "Be Safe" song is available for download! You can listen to it here on the blog and download it from the Boston Public Schools Cybersafety website.

A special thanks to Eric Esteves and the TechBoston interns that worked hard to create this song and make it available to the BPS community and the world.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Cyber Superheroes Release "Be Safe" Rap Song!

In the summer of 2007 Tech Boston hired high school students from Boston Public Schools to work on products that would help educate children on internet safety. One of the products they created was a movie featuring the real life BPS Cyber Superheroes. This past summer, a new group of BPS high school students took on the same challenge and created an amazing rap song starring the real life BPS Cyber Safetyheroes. Copyright, Firewall, Shield, and Amika give great internet safety tips in the song, which is titled, "Be Safe". Copyright raps about citing sources when using information from the internet in your school work. Firewall rhymes about the importance of keeping your computer safe by keeping it up to date. Shield raps about keeping personal information offline and Amika gives tips on reacting to cyberbullies. Eric Esteves, a program director with Tech Boston, helped guide the students in creating a great educational tool that can be used in schools everywhere! The song will be posted to the BPS CyberSafety Website and made available for download.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

BPS Cyber Safety Mentors Branch Out to Boston Public Libraries

Fourteen Boston Public School (BPS) teens, working as Cyber Safety Mentors, connected with the Boston Public Library’s (BPL) Neighborhood Services Department to promote Internet safety during the Summer 2008. TechBoston, a division of the BPS Office of Instructional and Information Technology, coordinated the summer project that was underwritten by Microsoft, the Boston Society of Information Managers and the Boston Public Library Foundation.

TechBoston hired the teens to develop educational materials about cyber safety aimed at reaching the youth audiences participating in the Summer Reading Program offered at BPL neighborhood branches. Working in pairs, the Cyber Safety Mentors conducted activities at 20 branch libraries using BPS Cyber Safety materials featuring the BPS Cyber Safety Heroes that other BPS teens developed last summer with funding from Microsoft. The Cyber Mentors also used their own creative skills to produce a rap song and several other interactive games, including Cyber Bingo, the mentors used to engage the children visiting the libraries. Through their outreach effort, the Cyber Mentors reached approximately 2500 children and adults at the branch libraries.

At the conclusion of the summer, the Cyber Mentors presented the Cyber Safety Campaign materials at the BPS Open House for Principals & Headmasters. The school leaders were very excited to see the professional quality products and many principals requested the materials for their schools. The Cyber Mentors also made a presentation to Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Cyber Crimes Unit. Thomas Ralph, Chief of the Cybercrime Division, presented all of the Cyber Mentors with a certificate commending them for their service to the community.

Koren Stembridge, the director of the Boston Public Library’s Neighborhood Services Program, plans to continue the cyber safety outreach effort by providing Internet safety training for 120 teen mentors the BPL employs to work in the branch libraries through the BPL’s Homework Assistance Program (HAP). All BPL HAP Mentors will be required to conduct cyber safety information sessions for youth they mentor throughout the school year.

The BPS Office of Instructional and Information Technology (OIIT) is developing a plan to reach out to all BPS elementary and middle school principals during the school year to distribute copies of the comic book, bookmarks, and other cyber safety products to the schools. TechBoston director Felicia Vargas and Joe Kidd from OIIT also want to connect with principals who are interested in offering Cyber Safety outreach events for parents, teachers and students. Vargas said, “We are incredibly proud of the amazing cyber safety educational products that our BPS students have created over the past three years and we are anxious to get them into the schools. We are grateful for the financial support provided by Microsoft, Boston Society of Information Managers, and the Boston Public Library Foundation that enabled us to promote this important cyber safety message to the community.” Vargas continued, “I would also like to acknowledge the financial and in-kind support for the BPS Cyber Safety Campaign provided by Realcomm, Bunker Hill Community College, and the National Science Foundation.”

All of the materials created by the Boston Public School students for the BPS Cyber Safety Campaign are available on the website For more information, contact Felicia Vargas (email) or (phone) 617.635.6495 or Joe Kidd, OIIT Technology Support Specialist (email) (phone) 617.635.8017.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

BBB Warns of Identity Theft Through Voter Registration Fraud

Have you registered to vote for the 2008 presidential election yet? It will be an historic election that may draw out over a million new voters, and scammers are hoping to cash in. The Better Business Bureau has issued a warning that ID thieves are using the election as a means to steal personal information from people registering to vote. The thieves are using email, phone calls and even face to face encounters to try and trick people into giving away important personal information such as social security numbers, bank account numbers and passwords. According to a press release from the BBB, unsuspecting individuals are receiving phishing emails:

"that appear to be from a government agency and claim that the recipient must click on a link in the message to register to vote or resolve a registration issue. These links will actually redirect recipients to Web sites that install viruses or malware on their computers or ask for personal information such as Social Security or bank account numbers."

Potential voters are also getting phone calls with claims that there is a problem with the person's voter registration and that they need to confirm their identity with a social security number or credit card number. Do not give unsolicited callers any sensitive, personal information of any kind. The BBB has also posted a video explaining the ways scammers are trying to steal the identity of voters. If you have not registered to vote, do so by following the instructions from you state's election office.

Voter registration rules vary by state, so it is important to know how your state properly registers its voters. To find out you can go to the website for the Election Assistance Commission and look up your state. In Massachusetts, you must register within 20 days of the election and the official federal or state registration form. You have until October 15th to mail in your form. To learn more about how to register to vote in Massachusetts, go to the Massachusetts Election Division website for the correct procedures and forms. If you need to register to vote in another state, click this link to find the website for your state election office.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

BPS Cybersafety Website Redesigned

Just in time for the start of a new school year, the Boston Public School's cybersafety website has been redesigned with a fresher look, easier navigation and updated content.   Teachers, parents and students can access the site for information, downloads and links to internet safety resources.  One of the latest downloads just added to the website is the internet safety comic book created by TechBoston interns during the summer of 2007.  This past summer a new crop of internet safety student heroes were hired by TechBoston and sent to work to create new materials and perform internet safety outreach in local Boston Public Libraries.  We will have much more about what they accomplished this summer in a later blog post.  

Channel 5 news has had a couple of reports about internet safety this past month, this is a video from their website about some tips and warnings for kids using social networking websites.  

We have always tried to reiterate that students need to be cautious about what information they post about themselves on an online social networking site such as Facebook or MySpace.  The warning has always been that college admissions officers and potential employers can look up your profile online.  However, according to this article from, employers are not simply looking at the profile.  Some human resources employees are contacting the friends listed on the potential employee's social networking page looking for information or recommendations.  On Facebook, for example, you can make your profile private from people who are not your friends.  However, anyone can still see a list of your friends and contact them if they want.  Some sites, including Facebook, will allow you to make a private list of friends that cannot be seen by outsiders, but you have to enable that option.  If you are a parent or guardian, please ask your child to see their social networking pages or talk to them about being careful with their personal information.  

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Two Teens Charged For Facebook Identity Fraud

Two Norwell teenagers were charged with identity fraud after posting a fake Facebook profile, impersonating a female student from Norwell High School. According to an article from the Patriot Ledger, the two recent Norwell High graduates posted offensive and harassing information on the fraudulent profile. The profile was only online for one day, Facebook officials removed it when they were informed it was a fake. However, as many cyberbullying situations do, the problems stemming from the profile spilled over into school. The student has since transferred from Norwell High School. The students charged face up to two and a half years in a house of correction.

It is important for students to know that there can be serious consequences for their actions. While some of the things that students write about other students online might be protected by the First Amendment, identity fraud is against the law. As this story indicates, law enforcement isn't afraid to charge students who commit identity fraud online. Facebook is a great way for students to stay connected to their friends, be creative and express themselves. Unfortunately, parents and students need to be aware that these things can happen and that they should alert the authorities if they feel they are a victim of identity fraud or online harassment.

For more information about cyberbullying and cyberbully prevention strategies, check out these sites:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Shield - Live at the Fifield!

We are live at the Fifield School for their cybersafety night. The Fifield invited parents and students to view "Jake's Cyber Adventure", the BPS produced cybersafety movie. The movie was written and performed by Boston Public School students last summer to help educated students about safe cybersafety practices. The movie follows the BPS Cybersafety Heroes as they help their friend Jake navigate through the internet and make good choices to help keep his computer and his information safe. In addition to watching the movie, Shield, a real life cybersafety hero is on hand to meet the students and give them tips on staying safe online. There are also other cybersafety activities happening in the school tonight. In one room, there will be an interactive quiz game on good cybersafety strategies as well as a classroom where students will receive some BPS Cybersafety trading cards. The students will discuss the tips and lessons that they can learn from the trading cards with each other. The entire event was planned by former BPS high school students, Vasantee Reddicks and Rachel Gaffney who have been hired as project managers this summer to work on the BPS cybersafety campaign.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Attorney General's Office Visits McKinley School

Chris Kelly, the managing attorney for the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office Cybercrime Division spoke to a group of high school students at the McKinley South End Academy last Friday. Chana Green, a counselor at the school, contacted OIIT earlier in the school year to try and set up an internet safety talk for her students. "I felt my students really needed someone with knowledge to speak with them about this issue", Ms. Green wrote to us in an email. Attorney Kelly discussed issues of cyberbullying and online predators with the students. He gave them strategies on what to do if they are victimized online. He also showed them some videos made by other teenagers about true stories of what happened to them online. The students responded to Attorney Kelly, engaging in conversations about what they experience online and asking questions about online safety. Ms. Green added in her email about the talk, "I thought it was good because he brought real life situations to the class. I think showing the film was helpful. I think it made them aware ...they are very vulnerable and don't understand about the dangers that are out there."

Attorney Kelly also told the students that he used to think that teenagers were tricked into giving out their information online to predators. He said that he now knows that teenagers who are being groomed online are willingly giving out their personal information and willingly meeting up with strangers online because they think that the predator cares about them. One of the strongest messages he conveyed to the students was that these predators will say anything and everything to you online to gain your trust. He also told them to really watch out for their friends, look for the warning signs. If a friend starts talking about this wonderful person they met online who is going to take them away from all their problems, they need to step in and contact an adult or law enforcement about that. He also told them that they can contact the Cybertip line to report anything that they feel is causing themselves or their friends danger.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

iSAFE adds new iDrive webcasts

I just received this message from iSAFE the other day:

June 1, 2008

June is Internet Safety Month, a month devoted to increasing awareness about safe and responsible online behavior. For i-SAFE, every month, every week, every day is dedicated to educating and empowering students of all grade levels to be safe online. The i-SAFE Safe School Education Initiative and Outreach Program continues to be adopted as a core program in schools throughout the nation. The program has increased ten fold – educating more than 6 million students to date – by responding to new technologies and current trends to provide teachers creative and fresh e-Safety lesson plans/activities, and innovative ways to reach students on their level. Our newest program, i-DRiVE TV ( ) has become a hallmark for the type of programming we are now providing – at no cost – to educate and empower students to stay safe online. We need your support.

Make Internet Safety Month the time to take action. Your charitable donation to i-SAFE is an investment in the safety of our nation’s youth. Your gift means that you are partnering with i-SAFE in our commitment to raise e-Safety awareness in classrooms, homes, neighborhood, and communities across the country – not just during Internet Safety Month, but every day of the year.

Please use the following link to make your donation:

Thank you for supporting the i-SAFE Program.

Teri Schroeder
CEO, i-SAFE Inc.

I took a look at the trailer of their newest iDrive webcast and recommend that you check it out. I found it interesting how they are taking the approach of weaving in internet safety education into webcasts about the latest technology news.

What do you think?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Media Companies Getting Involved in Internet Safety

The internet safety resources just keep on coming. According to a recent press release, Comcast is offering the PBS Frontline documentary, Growing Up Online free On Demand. This documentary is an excellent look into the online lives of teenagers and worth watching. has included new resources on its internet security website including a "for kids" page that contains games and downloads featuring Faux Paw the internet safety techno cat. Faux Paw is a character from has a very comprehensive internet safety website with a whole section devoted to Faux Paw. There is a section for educators which includes a quiz game that teachers can use in the classroom to test students' knowledge about the internet. The educators section also has downloadable resources for teachers to use in the elementary, middle and high school classroom. I haven't seen these resources yet, but I plan on downloading them and checking them out. There are also free presentations that teachers can download for students and parents.

Meanwhile, Information Week reports that Verizon has plans to provide free access to parental controls over the internet. Verizon Broadband subscribers will have free content filtering available to them that can block children from visiting inappropriate websites. The announcement was made at WiredSafety's International Stop Cyberbullying Conference.

Friday, May 30, 2008

New Hampshire Legislature Develops Online Predator Bill

The New Hampshire state legislature announced an agreement on a bill that will better protect children from online predators according to New Hampshire governor, John Lynch. The bill was created to strengthen existing New Hampshire law by including enhanced punishment for repeat offenders, as well as closing previous legal loopholes in the existing Child Protection Act, passed in 2006.

Friday, May 23, 2008

P2P File Sharing - Be Careful!

Just about any teenage student who uses a computer knows how to use Peer to Peer software to share and download songs, movies, tv shows and software. They probably also know that it is illegal to distribute copyrighted material over the internet, whether or not they think it is wrong. This is also true of adults. Many adults know that it is illegal to share copyrighted material online, however, many still choose to do it. Channel 5 recently did a story that shows how the movie industry is tracking down people who are sharing movies illegally online. The video shows an interview with a UMASS Amherst administrator who says that 600 students this year have been reprimanded for having pirated copies of movies on their computers. While the initial punishment is basically a warning, if students are caught again they will have to pay a fine or risk being sued.

Not only do P2P programs put you in danger financially if you are illegally sharing copyrighted materials, but they can also put you in a cybersecurity danger. Check out this article from last month. A man was sentenced to four years in prison for stealing personal data off the computers of users using P2P software. He was able to get into their personal files and steal information from tax returns and bank statements. Think about some of the personal information you have in the files on your computer. Using P2P software may offer the opportunity for someone to gain access to those files. Another danger that you can face is downloading an Mp3 with a virus, trojan horse or other type of Malware that can infect and damage your computer.

Another recent example of P2P danger is a music file that infects the computers after it is downloaded. Yahoo Tech reports that an MP3 file that is being shared actually contains a trojan horse program that has attacked half a million computers in a week! It is a fake Mp3 file that actually tries to install malware on your computer which causes constant pop ups on the computer screen. Luckily, only 10 percent of the people who downloaded the file actually installed the malicious software.

OnGuard online has some helpful tips if you do choose to use a P2P file sharing program. Make sure that you set up the software to only share one certain folder, not your entire hard drive. You should also scan anything you download with updated security software to make sure it is clean. Just realize that even if you scan it, there is a chance that it may contain a virus that infects your computer.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mom Indicted in Cyberbullying Case

According to a report published by the associated press today, the mother of a girl involved in a cyberbullying suicide story has been indicted by federal prosecutors. The tragic story of Megan Meier made national headlines late last year, in which the mother of one of Megan's former friends allegedly created a fake MySpace profile that pretended to be a boy who liked Megan. You can read the past articles about it, but it ended with Megan committing suicide. After it was revealed that the mother of Megan's friend was involved with creating the fake profile, local prosecutors were unable to press charges against her, citing that they could not find an applicable statute. Federal prosecutors, however, have been able to indict Lori Drew "on one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization to obtain information to inflict emotional distress."

I will update this post with links to more articles in the coming days as details of this story begin to surface.

It is important to note that while this tragedy does produce lots of headlines, there are lots of smaller incidences of bullying and cyberbullying happening right now. Make sure to talk to your students and children about cyberbullying and strategies to prevent it. The Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use has a lot of helpful information for parents and teachers to access.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Facebook Imposes Safety Rules

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced last week that social networking site, has agreed to make changes that are aimed to "enhance the safety of minors using the site." This is a similar agreement that made earlier in the year with the attorney generals from 49 states across the country. Some of the changes that Facebook has pledged to implement are:

  • Developing technologies that prevent underage users from accessing the site.
  • Allowing users under the age of 18 to block all users over the age of 18 from contacting them or accessing their profiles.
  • Creating a 24 hour hotline to respond to law enforcement inquiries.
  • Responding to customer complaints of cyberbullying and harassment within 24 hours and then reporting to the consumer the proactive steps it has taken to address the complaint within 72 hours.
Read the full press release.

The Attorney General's office takes cybersafety very seriously and is in the process of building a state of the art cyber forensics lab to investigate cybercrime in the state of Massachusetts. You can access her Cyber Crime Strategic Plan here. In February, Attorney General Coakley appointed attorney Christopher Kelly as the new managing attorney of the office's CyberCrime Division. Attorney Kelly is an experienced cybercrime investigator and prosecutor, most recently out of the Suffolk County D.A.'s office. He is also a tireless advocate for the education of internet safety to educators, parents and children. He has partnered with the Boston Public Schools on a number of occasions, speaking to students and parents at schools. Last May, he organized the Take 25 For Internet Safety event at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Pennsylvania CyberSafety Video

Protecting Kids Online is an internet safety awareness program out of the state of Pennsylvania that is made up of law enforcement officials who present the program to parents, educators and students. They have released this 22 minute long video online that is free for anyone to watch. This is a nice resource to show parents to educate them about internet safety. The video focuses on two topics, cyberbullying and online predators. I think the cyberbullying section is very informative for parents. It contains student interviews, parent interviews and real life examples of cyberbullying incidents. The entire video stresses the importance of parent education about the internet and includes tips for parents on how to keep their children safe online.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Cyberbullying - A Growing Global Issue

There was a lot of attention a few weeks ago on a story from Florida in which some students planned to post a video online of themselves beating up another girl. Unfortunately, this is not a new issue, but is an increasing one. In fact, I recently typed in the search term “girl fight” into Google Video and it returned 5,863 videos! Now, I certainly can’t verify whether all of those results are actually videos of girls fighting each other, but it is an astonishing number. Obviously, it is a medium that people enjoying posting and humiliating others with, not only in America, but around the world. I see articles about cyberbullying every single day from newspapers and websites from Canada, the U.K., Japan and Australia. The common themes from most of the articles are:

1. Kids are being bullied online and can be significantly affected by the abuse.
2. A number of parents do not understand the technical lives of their children, what they are saying to others online and what is being said to them.
3. Kids aren’t going to stop using computers and cell phones because of cyberbullying.

60 Minutes in Australia published a story two weeks ago about cyberbullying. It is about a 12 minute long video and worth watching. It follows a girl who is being cyberbullied by classmates in her school. If it wasn’t for the Australian accents, I would think that this is the story of any American student that is being cyberbullied.

What can schools do? A lot of times, cyberbullying happens off of school property and off the school system's network. According to an article I read about a school in Georgia, schools need to show that cyberbullying that takes place out of school is having an impact on students while they are in school. Schools also need to be aware of freedom of speech issues when disciplining students for cyberbullying. Does this mean that schools and teachers are powerless when it comes to protecting students from cyberbullies? published an article written by Ryan E. Winter and Dr. Robert J. Leneway that explores the topic of a school's responsibility when it comes to cyberbullying. The article also includes some links to cyberbullying resources. One thing I completely agree with from the article is that there needs to be some education about this issue for both students and parents.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Don't Get Scammed

With the economic stimulus checks being sent out from the IRS, there is an opportunity for phishers and other scam artists that try and steal your personal information. There are several reports that identity thieves are sending are making phone calls posing as the IRS and asking for personal information. Phishing emails are also being sent out, telling people that if they "click here" they will get their rebate check even faster. Do not fall for either of these scams, the IRS will not call you or contact you by email. If you are getting a tax rebate check, it will be sent to you in the mail. If you had your tax return directly deposited into your bank account, then you rebate check will also be directly deposited into your bank account.

You can always contact the IRS yourself with questions. If you get a suspicious email claiming that it is from the IRS, do not call the phone number included in the email. Go to the IRS website for the government agency's contact information. You can also report the fraudulent email to the IRS by following these procedures. The site also has additional resources about phishing sites and identity theft, including sample phishing emails.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Teachers and Social Networking

Do you have a social networking page on Facebook, MySpace or another social network? Do you think that educators should use social networking? I read very interesting article from the Washington Post about a number of D.C. area educators and their social network pages. The reporter observed a number of photographs and comments that could be deemed inappropriate. Read the article to get the details.

One of the messages that we have tried to convey to students is to be careful of what you post. There are consequences to what you make available online for the entire world to see. Is this something we also also should reiterate to educators as well? Is it anyone's business what a teacher puts on their social networking site, should they be disciplined if it is deemed "inappropriate"? I certainly do not have the answers to these questions, I just thought I would throw it there out for discussion. Also, it is important to note that the reporter did write that the many of the educator's personal pages he read were of constructive use. Last spring, the Boston Globe published an article about this issue that included the comments from some BPS educators.

Are there any educators out there that have a personal social networking page? Is it private or public? Are you worried about students or administrators looking at it?

Are there any educators out there that use social networking for educational use? If so, how do you use it?

Please share your comments with us!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

What is a Botnet Anyway?

The National Cyber Security Alliance released a study earlier this month that states 88% of the participants surveyed do not know what a “botnet” is and that 71% had never heard of the term “botnet” before. Why is this important? Well, according to some security experts, botnets may be the biggest security threat online right now. A botnet refers to a a large network of computers that have been compromised by malicious software and are controlled by a cyber criminal. A botnet can consist of hundreds of thousands of computers that are used to send spam to mail servers or launch denial of service attacks on web severs. The owners of the infected computers, also called zombies, will often times be unaware that their computer has been infected with a malicious program such as a trojan horse and therefore do not know that their computer’s resources are being used in criminal acts. In the video below Ron Teixeira, executive director of the National Cybersecurity Alliance talks about how there needs to be a mixture of education and technology to defeat the botnet threat.

One very important thing you can do to make sure you do not have any malicious software on your computer that may contribute to a botnet is to run updated antivirus, firewall and spyware prevention programs on your computer. The best protection is a multilayer of security that is up to date and always running. You should also run a virus scan on your computer at least once a week. If you are not sure which type of software you should have, here are two articles that may assist you. The first comes from PC Magazine which published a review of different internet security programs on the market. The second is a slideshow of some free security applications that you may want to install on your computer. Remember, you may not even know that someone has even infected your computer and made it part of their botnet!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Internet Safety Tips for Families

There are a few resources that I would like to share today that give cybersafety tips and advice for families and other caregivers of children. The first is a video from an organization called Common Sense Media and is entitled, "A Common Sense Approach to Internet Safety". It is a seven minute long video that gives tips on keeping your children safe online while still trying to give them a full internet experience. The video focuses on setting rules for your kids, communicating safely online, as well as touching upon media literacy and copyright infringement. Common Sense Media is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to give families "trustworthy information to help manage their kid's media lives." The video was made in conjunction with Google and includes tips on how to set privacy features and content filtering on many of Google's products such as Blogger and Google chat.

Another resource that is worth sharing with parents is NetSmartz 411. It is an internet safety help desk designed to answer the questions of parents and guardians about internet safety. is a premier internet safety resource with sections that are dedicated to teaching cybersafety to parents, educators, law enforcement, kids and teens. NetSmartz 411 internet safety help desk is a place where anyone can go and seek the answers to questions about anything involving the online world. Parents can search for questions that have already been answered or post a new question (in English or Spanish) that will be answered by an internet safety expert.

Both of these resources I have described in the above paragraphs were brought to my attention from one of my favorite sources of internet safety education, Net Family News. Net Family News is a weekly electronic news service to inform and educate parents, families and caregivers of children who spend time online. The blog is maintained by Ann Collier, who was featured in the PBS Frontline Special, Growing Up Online. The site features up to date internet safety articles and information from around the world, you can even subscribe to their weekly email newsletter. The site also includes a number of links and resources for families. I would recommend this site 100% for people who would like to stay updated on internet safety issues that effect children and families.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Virginia Mandates Internet Safety Education

The state of Virginia announced that they have passed legislation that requires internet safety education for all grade levels in their public schools. More detailed information about the law can be read in this article published by The News Virginian. While other states have passed internet safety legislation, Virginia is the first to require internet safety education for all grades. This bill looks like it was first passed by the Virginia legislature in 2006. The Virginia Department of Educational Technology website has a section dedicated to this bill. The page includes guidelines and resources for internet safety, powerpoint presentations for integrating internet safety and even a booklet with ideas for integrating internet safety into the curriculum.

The Massachusetts Department of Education have recently been revising their technology literacy standards. The March 2008 draft includes standards for ethics, society, health and safety for grade K-12. The standards cover a variety of internet safety issues including cybersecurity, cyberbullying, and online personal safety.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

CyberSafety Resource Spotlight - OnGuard Online

OnGuard Online is a website provided by the federal government that provides practical tips to prevent internet fraud, secure your computer, and protect your personal information. One of the helpful resources the website offers is a video and tutorials section. Here is an example of one of the videos that are on the website that help to explain what phishing is.

Another really neat resource that this site offers are some interactive quiz games that you can take online. The identity theft quiz offers really good tips and links about identity theft and personal data protection. There are also quizzes about shopping safely online and laptop security. There is a section on the site that explains to users how and where to file a complaint if they are a victim of an internet crime. You can also view the site in Spanish.

There are many more resources and features on this site, it is definitely worth a little exploration.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Joyce Kilmer School Students Learn About CyberSafety

Elaine McCabe, technology teacher at the Joyce Kilmer School, sent in pictures of some of the cybersafety activities her students are working on. She started her cybersafety unit for grades 1 to 3 with a short survey. From this survey she learned that 19 out of her 20 first grade students use the internet at home without any adult supervision. She said, “I then thought it would be a good idea to start grades 1 to 3 with safety on the internet.” Elaine used iSAFE activities for some of her lessons. The first grade students learned about traveling safely through cyberspace and listened to some cybersafety songs created by iSAFE. The second grade students created products in Kidspiration software after viewing an iSAFE webcast. They learned about not sharing personal information online, not talking with strangers online, and about downloading safety.

The fifth graders focused on cyberbullying and discussed the ramifications of negative things that are said in chat rooms and while instant messaging. Cyberbullying is a problem that continues to gain attention. More and more studies are showing that cyberbullying tends to occur most in the middle school grades, so fifth grade is definitely a good year to educate students about what to do if they are cyberbullied. It is also important to try and teach children about the effects cyberbullying can have on others and the consequences they could face if they are cyberbullying other students.

All in all, the lessons seemed to be successful as Elaine told us, “I think all of the classes understood that the internet can be dangerous and that they need to be careful about what they write.”

Monday, March 31, 2008

Identity Theft Protection?

Identity theft is a crime that continues to grow and grow and no matter what precautions you take, you personal data can fall into the hands of cyber criminals as evidenced by the recent incident with Hannaford Supermarkets. The growing media attention on identity theft and the negative impact it can have on a person’s credit has highlighted companies that claim to protect consumers from identity fraud. Services such as Identity Guard and Life Lock can provide monitoring of your credit reports and place fraud alerts for you with the three major credit bureaus. They will also request that you do not receive credit card applications in the mail, call your credit card companies for you if your wallet is stolen and assist you if you do become a victim of id theft. This seems very helpful if you are a busy person and worried about becoming a victim, however, these are all things you can do yourself without having to pay a company to do it for you.

Two articles recently published by the Wall Street Journal and explain how to do most of the same things that these companies will do for a fee. Both of the articles provide helpful tips on how to obtain your credit report and place fraud alerts with the three major credit bureaus. The articles also point out the fact that no company can guarantee safety from identity theft, but there are things you can do to minimize your risk and you do not necessarily have to pay for some other company to do it for you.

After reading both of these articles, I was able to get my credit report free online from It was very easy to do, and gave me some peace of mind to know that everything looked correct. My wife also checked on hers. If you want to order one for a child under 13 years of age, you are going to need to send in additional documentation.

I am in no way discouraging anyone from using credit monitoring and protection services like the ones mentioned above, in fact, they look extremely helpful for people who do not want the hassle of having monitor their credit themselves. I am merely trying to drive home the point that you should monitor your credit information on a regular basis and you can do it yourself, if you so choose.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

McAfee Introduces Internet Safety Plan for Families

Antivirus and internet security software company, McAfee, has created a 10 step internet safety plan designed to help protect families online. It is a nice guide filled with step by step information on how parents can keep their children safe online. While most of the information is common sense for some, it is nicely organized and easy to follow. The steps include computer placement in the home, boundaries and rules for internet use and even includes an online safety pledge that can be printed out and signed by both parent and child.

The guide also includes three sections that guide parents on ways to talk to their kids about internet safety. The sections are set up by age group starting with kids ages 3-7, then tweens, ages 8-12 and finally teens, ages 13-19.

The guide is located on McAfee’s security advice site which also has a lot of internet security information and resources including webcasts and videos.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Cybersafety Resource Spotlight – MySecure Cyberspace is a great internet safety resource for teachers, parents, and children. Created as a free educational resource by Carnegie Mellon University, the site has many features for those who are looking for cybersafety resources. MySecure Cyberspace has a section devoted to sharing security advice based on the online activity your are performing such as blogging, online shopping or file sharing. It also contains an encyclopedia of terms that define different internet risks and threats. There is a section with articles about current topics of cybersecurity as well as a section geared towards parents and the caregivers of children called the family room. The classroom section contains links to recommended educational resources for teachers while the gameroom features links to internet safety related games for children to play.

The site also has a special section for children called the Carnegie Cyber Academy. On this site, children can find lots of information about internet safety and participate in training missions that teach cadets different cybersecurity subjects. After completing each training mission, cadets earn a gold badge in the cybersecurity subject they completed. The Carnegie Cyber Academy contains blogs for the students to read with different internet tips such as how to perform research for school assignments, how to keep your computer safe and how to protect yourself from online predators.

If you are looking for cybersafety resources, MySecureCyberspace has a lot to offer.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hannaford Bros. Confirms "Data Intrusion"

Add Hannaford supermarkets to the latest list of retailers victimized by hackers who have stolen credit card and debit card information of its customers. According to an article in the Boston Globe, Hannaford came forward yesterday to confirm that possibly 4.2 million credit and debit card numbers have been exposed and that this data intrusion is linked to 1,800 fraud cases already to date. According to the Hannaford website, the data that was stolen did not include names or addresses of card holders, but did include the card numbers and expiration dates. The data was illegally accessed from the Hannaford computer systems during transmission of card authorization. This data breach has affected customers from all Hannaford supermarkets, so if you shop at a Hannafords, it is strongly recommended that you review your credit card and bank statements. If you see anything out of the ordinary, immediately alert your financial institution of the problem. You then may need to place a fraud alert with one of the three major credit bureaus. If you have any questions for Hannaford supermarkets, call their customer care center at 866-591-4580.

Sometimes, no matter how safe you are with your personal information, you can still fall victim to identity theft. This story is a reminder that even if you are very protective with your personal financial information, you need to keep a close eye on credit card statements and bank statements. It is also a good idea to order a credit report for everyone in your family, including your children. The Federal Trade Commission website is an excellent resource on identity theft. There are videos about identity theft and information about what to do if you think you are a victim.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Support Internet Safety - Recycle Your Phone

Do you have an old cell phone in your house that you want to get rid of? Why not recycle it and support internet safety at the same time? Sprint Project Connect is a program in which you can recycle any cell phone, regardless of the make and model or cell phone carrier you had. All you have to do is go to any participating Sprint store and pick up a free postage-paid envelope. You can also print out a free postage mailing label from Sprint. Not only will you be helping the environment, but you will also help educate others on cybersafety. The net proceeds from the recycled phones that are collected by Sprint are donated to Sprint's 4NetSafety Program. The 4NetSafety program is a partnership between the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children and the National Health Information Network. One of the resources that benefits from this program is NetSmartz which is a free internet safety website with games, multimedia, curriculum and resources dedicated to cybersafety.

You can find the Sprint store closest to your location here.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Microsoft Launches Intellectual Property Curriculum

The Microsoft Corp. has developed a curriculum aimed to teach students in grade 8-10 about intellectual property rights in a an effort to curb illegal file sharing. Earlier in the year Microsoft performed a survey on 501 teenagers between seventh and tenth grade. The result of the survey showed that many teens had a lax attitude about downloading copyrighted material off of the internet. In fact one of the key findings was that of the teens that participated in the survey fewer than half said that there should be punishment for illegally downloading materials off of the internet. This is in line with a New York Times article in which the author found that an entire group of college students he was speaking to seemed to collectively believe that there was nothing wrong with downloading copyrighted material from the internet.

Another very important finding from the Microsoft Survey was that awareness of the law impacts teen attitudes towards illegal downloading. According to the results of the survey 82% of teens ,who indicated that they were aware of the law, said that illegal downloaders should be punished. The report is very interesting and can be read here. The last key finding prompted Microsoft to launch a curriculum that teaches students about what intellectual property rights are and the possible consequences of illegal fire sharing. The curriculum consists of four thematic units and each unit contains 4 to 6 lesson plans. Right now, Microsoft is looking for teachers to field test the curriculum. The registration is free and the site has an overview of the curriculum and some FAQ's.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

CyberSafety Resource Spotlight - Be CyberSmart is not a new resource and is listed on the Teacher Resources page of the BPS cybersafety website. However, it seems that the creators of the site keep improving on the already very useful resources and lesson plans that they provide free of charge to teachers. The site offers a comprehensive curriculum that incorporates 21st century learning skills for students grades K-8. Recently, the site has added videos and was featured as an A+ reviewed site with Education World. The editors at Education World noted that the CyberSmart lessons are aligned with ISTE’s National Education Technology Standards. Each lesson is grouped by grade level and topic. Lessons, worksheets and posters are available to be printed out as well as internet safety tips that can be sent home.
The videos can be used as discussion starters with both students and parents. I have embedded one of the videos below that could be used to start a discussion with parents on ways we can keep our students safe online.