Students get lesson in being wary on the web
BY STEVE METSCH email@example.com May 12, 2014 5:42PM
Updated: June 14, 2014 6:34AM
When an Internet safety specialist asked about 150 second- and third-graders how many of them had been surfing the web, all but a few arms were raised.
That proved that Melissa Hemzacek’s appearance Monday morning at Ridge Central School in Chicago Ridge was indeed important.
Hemzacek, who works in the Chicago office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, spoke with three groups of kindergartners through fifth-graders at the invitation of Mark Melka, a computer science teacher at the school, 10800 S. Lyman Ave.
“I was surprised by how many questions those kindergartners and first-graders were asking. You wouldn’t really think they would know about how to be safe and what to do and not to do, but I was very impressed,” Melka said.
For the session with second- and third-graders, Hemzacek focused on basic guidelines worth keeping in mind when on the Internet.
“At that age, more of the kids are playing video games online than being on social media,” she said.
She reminded the second- and third-graders that if they run into bullies or people using bad language online, they should stop corresponding and alert their parents.
“We know how we’re expected to act. We want to use those same manners on the Internet,” she said.
She discouraged the children from ever using their real name online or giving away any personal information.
“If someone asks for your real name, what do you tell them? You don’t have to give them your full name. You can give a game tag or a nickname,” she said.
She reminded children it’s not a good idea to give your age, birthdate, phone number, street address, email address, any passwords, grade or school to strangers online.
“The Internet is not anonymous. The Internet is public and anybody can see what you post,” she said.
After the session, four third-graders — all age 9 and all from Chicago Ridge — said they’ve been on the Internet, usually to play games. They don’t use Facebook or other social media, but each learned something from Hemzacek’s presentation.
“I learned how to stay away from bullies,” said Kyra Olejniczak, whose brother, Damon, 15, keeps close watch when she is playing computer games at home.
Emma Bartlett said she learned it’s important to “protect your passwords, even from friends,” adding, “you should keep it as something nobody would ever guess.”
Emma is a big fan of the online game Minecraft, “where you make your own world,” she said.
She plays alone online. That’s a good idea, Hemzacek said, since some players may not be children their age.
Muhammad Abdallah said he will “tell an adult” if someone says mean or inappropriate things to him when he’s online.
Classmate Igor Cieply said, “I’ve seen people using bad words on Minecraft.” And when that happens? “I just ignore it,” Igor said.
Older children may be more interested in social media, she said, or multiplayer games which could have predators online posing as children.
“For older children, we talk about the choice they have on the Internet,” Hemzacek said.
Fourth- and fifth-graders were reminded to not post pictures of themselves “because that’s online always and you can’t really get rid of it. It could come back and hurt you,” Melka said.
“I’d assume, a lot of kids with social media, they don’t know who’s friends with them online and that’s probably not a good thing,” Melka said.