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Student safety focus of Cyber Week

Springfield schools offer tips to avoid online predators and bullying.

More kids are spending time online, and at a younger age with less supervision. That’s why Springfield City Schools is dedicating a week to teach students of all ages about how to safely navigate the web.

Even before children are old enough to read, studies find they’re spending time online. About 50 percent of children under the age of 12 are using the Internet. That number jumps to 95 percent for teens, according to 2013 data from Pew Research Group.

How well they’re being supervised while on the web varies. A study by the Digital Future Project found 30 percent of parents don’t chaperon their children’s time online because they trust their kids, don’t know how to use social media sites or report they don’t have time to supervise.

Taking a proactive approach to protect kids from online predators and why cyber bullying is wrong is why Springfield schools instituted “Cyber Week,” which runs through Friday.

“Now (kids) are online and they’re sending each other text messages and they’re Instagram-ing, and it’s become much more pervasive in our society,” said Christina Sanchez, principal at Simon Kenton Elementary. “The more we can educate up front, hopefully the less issues we have to deal with.”

Clark County is not immune from the dangers of online predators. Earlier this month Justin Huff, 19, was arrested for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old Clark County girl he met online through a Facebook app.

Even as a sixth grader, student Sara Arvin said she has a friend who became a victim of cyber bullying.

“People would say bad things about her and would just try to pick on her,” Arvin said. “She still has to deal with the effects of it today.”

Each grade level is getting an age-specific lesson on computer etiquette and safety. At Simon Kenton, kindergarten through third grade classes are reading “Arthur’s Computer Disaster” and learning about following the rules when it comes to using the Internet. Older students are reading “Doing Time Online,” which teaches kids about how their actions on the web can have negative consequences. Students are also undergoing a technology literacy assessment, so teachers can better understand how much they’re using the Internet and what’s been their experience with cyber bullying, Sanchez said.

It’s a lesson district officials hope will extend past the week and their school walls.

“We’re trying to work with our parents and help them understand you’ve got to monitor them, you’ve got to watch them online,” she said.

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