I am STOKED that IDG’s Computerworld Honors Program today recognized the McAfee Cares – Online Safety for Kids program as a 2013 Laureate. The annual award program honors visionary applications of information technology promoting positive social, economic and educational change. The Computerworld Honors Program awards will be presented at the Gala Evening and Awards Ceremony on June 3, 2013 at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.
Founded by International Data Group (IDG) in 1988, The Computerworld Honors Program is governed by the not-for-profit Computerworld Information Technology Awards Foundation. Computerworld Honors is the longest running global program to honor individuals and organizations that use information technology to promote positive social, economic and educational change. Additional information about the program and a Global Archive of past Laureate case studies, as well as oral histories of Leadership Award recipients can be found at the Computerworld Honors website.
McAfee Cares – Online Safety for Kids is a school initiative that employs volunteers to help train school-age children and parents on ways to stay safe and secure, as well as maintain good ethics in their online behavior. Each Online Safety for Kids session provides students or parents with content and materials based on the STOP.THINK.CONNECT™ national cybersecurity awareness campaign. This campaign was developed by the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. Messaging Convention, a public-private partnership established and led by The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) and National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), of which McAfee is a founding member.
As a founding member of the program, I have spoken to more than 10,000 kids and parents since its inception. Online Safety for Kids is MY PASSION. Every time I am in front of kids I hear stories of creepers approaching them online. Just last week, my OSK partner Taylor Tompkins and I spoke to 300 fifth graders. A girl in the front raised her hand and shared that she had a 20 year old man approach her in a virtual space where she and other kids go to communicate. He asked her to add him to a friends list, and then he followed her and other kids from place to place online.
This really made my blood boil. I could sense my adrenaline spike as she recounted the story—I could tell this really affected her. It affected me. It affected us both.
Online occurrences like this happen every day, all day, around the world. As much as we’d like to be involved in our kid’s online activities, we can’t be with them every second. So what can we do? We must give them the tools to navigate this world, teach them self-worth, and lead by example. In my house, when it is time to put the mobile devices down for the evening, Dad’s iPhone goes into the wicker basket FIRST.
For younger kids K – 5, they need the concrete, clear rules set by McAfee’s Online Safety for Kids talks. For middle school kids, we have them admit a little of their online use and then warn them in a real way, on their level. You should see the seventh grade girl’s face go OMG when I tell her Snapchat is a LIE. That Snapchat pics CAN be and ARE saved.
For high school kids (WAAAY too cool for us visiting speakers) I hammer home an idea I’ve been thinking of for some time now. What I call The Wave of Regret. It’s coming. Behavior on sites like reddit and tumblr are outrageous (and I do not say this from an ivory tower). I’ve made mistakes myself online and I have felt the stress from those choices. My goal is to speak to kids plainly, as real as possible, so I can reach them.
We must stay in the fight.
To learn more about the McAfee Online Safety for Kids program, or if you are an educator and would like to schedule a school visit for McAfee’s Global Community Service day, contact: Cybereducation@McAfee.com or 888-782-8892.