CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — Children and teens in America are spending more time than ever watching or using screens. A recent survey found children ages 8 to 12, on average, now devote over five hours each day online, while teens ages 13 to 18 are connected for over eight hours. Screen use among teens and tweens increased by 17% from 2019 to 2021, according to Common Sense Media.
This trend does not appear to be changing, which presents a growing need for parents and guardians to establish healthy boundaries. TDS Telecom is offering a program to help educate families on internet safety that includes tips on how to be safe online and important lessons for smart internet use.
“At TDS, we understand the critical, lifelong lessons that internet safety will provide children and their parents,” said Wendi Bulkley, TDS senior administrator of field marketing. “Which is why TDS recently rolled out Be Safe Online, an internet safety program in conjunction with Utah Tech University students.”
With its Be Safe Online program, TDS is partnering with Utah Tech University students to help spread the word to young students about safe internet habits. Throughout the 2022-23 school year, a Be Safe Online program is planned for 28 elementary schools in Washington County. Schools will host a week full of activities during each school’s designated Internet Safety Week. The week will conclude with a high-energy, music-filled, all-school assembly.
“Elementary school students are taught about internet safety in a fun and engaging way. During the week, they will receive educational handouts to share with their parents with tips on being safe online and topics to encourage family conversations,” Bulkley said. “They will be asked to sign a safety pledge and then when they return the form to school, they will receive a free T-shirt with internet safety messaging on the shirt. Finally, students will be taught a memorable rap song to help them remember these safety principles.”
The program kicked off its first assembly on Sept. 9 at Desert Canyons Elementary School in St. George.
“We had a blast. It was so fun,” Bulkley said. “I can’t thank Utah Tech enough for bringing so much enthusiasm and talent. These elementary students really look up to these college students. Plus, they are so tech-savvy and do a great job teaching how important it is to be safe online.”
Over the 2022-23 school year, the program is expected to reach about 18,000 elementary-age students and their parents. Students will be invited to a Utah Tech Trailblazers home women’s basketball game on Nov. 15 at 11 a.m. at the Burns Arena against Utah State University and will receive free admission if they wear their T-shirts.
For TDS, this meaningful program matches our corporate responsibility mission and correlates well with our TDS Cares campaign. Our goal is to help students think about safety first when they are online.
TDS is proud to be the title sponsor of Be Safe Online with Utah Tech University. TDS wants to thank Allyson Luekenga and Avery Mortensen of Empowering Young Minds, LLC for creating some of the program’s content. Luekenga, Mortensen and other members of the Crimson View Elementary PTA developed the “STOP” Internet Safety Program upon which TDS’ Be Safe Online program is based.
“This was new territory for us, and as parents, we felt a need to teach children some basic internet safety principles,” Luekenga said. “Our goal was to teach online decision-making skills, create opportunities for discussion at home and make it fun. When we couldn’t find a program to implement, we decided to create our own. This program is a result of what happens when great people come together to make a difference. We’re excited TDS and Utah Tech are helping us share it with our school community.”
Mortensen agreed, saying this program gives children the tools they need to protect themselves.
“We have been improving this program over the last 10 years and have made it into something that is easy to remember and fun to learn.”
Be Safe Online Q&A tip
Can I share my password with my friends?
Passwords are a link to your personal information and should not be shared with your friends. If other people have your passwords, they can pretend to be you and change your information. It’s best to not share your passwords.
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