For the second year in a row, the Progressive Optimist Club of Barbados is staging its annual Internet Safety Seminar to teach primary school-aged children how to use the World Wide Web responsibly and safely, while equipping themselves not to fall victim to predatory or corrupting influences online.
The seminar, which will be held on Friday, May 31 for Class 4 students drawn from the Charles F Broome, Grantley Prescod, St. Giles Primary, Belmont Primary, and Wilkie Cumberbatch schools, is being held in accordance with the Internet Safety programme developed by Optimist International developed to protect children in our communities and designed in such a way that the children can be introduced to Internet safety in a clear, non-threatening, entertaining way. The facilitator for the programme will be Anthony Alleyne, a teacher and Information Technology Coordinator with the Deighton Griffith Secondary School.
The specific goals for the programme are to sensitize the students to the importance of protecting their identities online and why they should never share their personal information or photos with everyone online; to encourage them to avoid talking to, or meeting in person, strangers that they meet on the Internet; and to encourage them to tell their parents, teachers, or any trusted adult about things they see on the Internet, especially things that make them feel uncomfortable.
This Internet Safety Seminar is timely as May is both Child Month in Barbados, and the month in which World Telecommunication and Information Society Day is celebrated, each year on May 17.
It is said that the celebration of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day was designed to help raise awareness of the possibilities and benefits that the use of the Internet and other information and communication technologies can bring to societies and economies. However, as with every great good, there is also potential for harm.
As the Internet penetration in Barbados increases, children are being exposed to the worldwide web at younger and more vulnerable ages, which increase their risk of cyber-bullying, being exposed to explicit sexual or violent content, or becoming victims of unwanted sexual advances.
According to the Telecommunications Unit, Barbados with its population of 287,705 people, has over 260,000 registered Internet users; over 50,000 homes with computers; and approximately 213,000 mobile internet subscribers. With this sort of widespread access to the Internet for almost every living person in Barbados, it obviously extremely important that children learn at an early age how to use this powerful tool in the most responsible way.