Janesville67.6°

Safe Surfing

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Beth Wheelock Tallon
July 16, 2012

Carrie Kulinski is the Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of Janesville. The Boys & Girls Club serves close to 100 children a day during the summer, and has 850 members during the school year. Roughly 100 students come to the Boys & Girls Club each day after school.

With more parents working, an increasing number of children are at home with no adult supervision. Young people need to know that someone cares about them. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America offer that and more. The Boys & Girls Club of Janesville is a safe place to learn and grow- all while having fun. Our mission is to inspire and enable all youth, especially those that need us the most, to realize their full potential as caring, responsible, and productive citizens.

As the mother of two teenagers myself, I worry about them while Iím at work. Although they are only home for a few hours by themselves, I worry that my daughter is constantly on her cell phone and my son is sitting on the computer playing video games. How can we as parents make sure that our kids are safe online during the day?

In June, The Boys & Girls Clubs of America launched an interactive campaign aimed to raise cyber safety awareness among club members, parents and guardians. With 95 percent of all teens online and 80 percent users of social media sites, itís more important than ever to understand the potential risks that come with the online world. For most young people, messaging, texting and tweeting with friends is second nature. Thatís to be expected in a generation raised in an era of instant information. But some kids are too at ease online and uninformed of the risks that go with it.

According to the Cyber Bullying Research Center, 1 of 3 kids have been victimized by cyber bullying. Online privacy is also an issue with 30% of teens sharing their passwords and 51% say that they have given out personal information online to a stranger.

To help protect youth from online hazards the Boys & Girls Club of America created CyberSafeFutures.org. Club members learn the basics of online safety including guidelines to navigate the web safely. Through the help of a technology grant from the Janesville Foundation, the club was able to purchase new computers and programming to safeguard membersí online activities. Kids learn how to use basic software, be safe online and learn networking skills in our weekly Club Tech program. The daily computer lab offers members the opportunity to play staff approved games and work on homework. Our staff monitors membersí computer use very closely. The CyberSafeFutures.org website also has videos and downloadable tips and surveys to provide parents and guardians with the facts on cyber bullying, social networking, online privacy and mobile phone use. I even picked up some helpful tips on basic but essential safety skills and directions to update privacy settings on our home computer.

Ensuring member safety has always been a priority at the Boys & Girls Club. Never more so than today, as concerns about cyber safety require all of us to be even more vigilant. To join the conversation and learn more about how the Boys & Girls Clubs are raising awareness around on-line safety, visit CyberSafeFutures.org

--Carrie Kulinski, Executive Director Boys & Girls Club of Janesville



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