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Virginia Launches Internet Safety Education for K – 12

A Washington Post article from over the weekend discusses Virginia’s pioneering effort to integrate online safety education into all grade levels. It’s a result of legislation passed last year that requires the Virginia Department of Education to develop curriculum for teaching safety for kids while their communicating on the Internet.

Internet safety education is a pillar of the online industry’s model legislation that NetChoice has proposed in a few states as an alternative to age & parental verification mandates. Virginia rightly integrates parents into the training:

The state initiative calls for including parents. One chapter in a state resource book covers “What Parents, Grandparents, and Caregivers Need to Know.” In Arlington, some Parent-Teacher Association chapters have heard public service announcements on the subject. And on Thursday, parents met at an Alexandria elementary school to talk about Internet safety.

“I tell parents this all the time, and they are horrified, but e-mail is for old people,” said Elizabeth Hoover, Alexandria’s instructional technology coordinator. “We have to raise our level of awareness for our teachers and community members. We can’t move forward without doing that.”

Unfortunately, the article recites the same misleading statistic that is always mentioned in online safety contexts: “One in Seven Children ages 10 to 17 has been sexually solicited while online.”  A leading online safety expert, Nancy Willard, has refuted this statistic by saying:

One in 7 young people are not being sexually solicited by adult sexual predators. The term sexual solicitation in the study included what was essentially sexual harassment and the majority of the sexual harassment came from other teens. But hidden within the data was the fact that 64% of the aggressive solicitations (where the solicitor wanted to meet) were from those under the age of 18 and 16% came from females

And empowered with education, kids and parents can help reduce the risk of real sexual solicitations even more.