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.