Students educate others about Internet dangers

November 23, 2003|GARY MOYERS

A state-mandated initiative to provide e-mail to all students takes effect in January, but students at Boyle County High School aren't waiting to make users aware of the potential dangers of instant messaging.

Jim Donlon's Senior Seminar class decided to make a project of educating students about instant messaging, a form of Internet communication that has become very popular among teens.

"We've been getting some good questions from students and teachers," said Wendi Pennington, one of 22 seniors who compiled the safety tips and present them to various classes throughout the day. "I use (IM) a lot, and this was educational for me. I learned some safety tips I hadn't thought about."

According to a study conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, about 17 million U.S. teenagers use the Internet - nearly three-quarters of all those in the 12-17 age bracket - and of those, nearly 13 million use instant messaging (IM), according to Pew. Seventy-four percent of online teens use instant messaging, compared to 44 percent of the adult online population.


Donlon's class, at the suggestion of district communications officer Paul Elwyn, decided the current and future Internet users at the school need to be educated about possible pitfalls on the Internet.

"This program is students alerting students, and sometimes I think the message gets across better that way," said Donlon. "This class contains a good cross section of our student population, so they are getting the word out to their own friends."

The students made presentations to classes, passing out literature containing safety tips and answering questions. They also put awareness flyers on the windshields of cars in the parking lots.

"I think we've made the school more aware of the dangers," said senior Kara Poarch. "I know I found out some things I didn't know. There are dangers there for students who don't pay attention, and just a little common sense goes a long way."

Elwyn said Friday was the final day for students to submit their Internet permission forms at school. Those forms were sent to parents explaining that every student who enrolls in the program will receive an e-mail address, and they were advised of the school policy regarding Internet use. In order to enroll, students had to sign a contract and parents had to submit permission in writing.

"We've had a good response among the students," said Elwyn. "This project by the Senior Seminar was part of the district's overall effort to ensure the safety or students when they go online, and the seniors have done an excellent job.

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