FBI San Francisco
San Francisco Media Office
August 31, 2022

Back-to-School: FBI San Francisco Warns About Cyberbullying and Announces the Safe Online Surfing (SOS) Internet Challenge for 2022-2023 School Year

SAN FRANCISCO—During this back-to-school season, the FBI San Francisco Field Office is providing tips to teachers, parents, and guardians to mitigate the threat of cyberbullying. In addition, the FBI is announcing that the Online Surfing (SOS) Internet Challenge opens on September 1, 2022, for the 2022-2023 school year.

FBI’s Safe Online Surfing Program

The FBI Safe Online Surfing (SOS) Internet Challenge is a free, educational program for children that teaches cyber safety and helps them become better digital citizens in a fun and engaging way. The program, created for students in third through eighth grades, covers age-appropriate topics like cyberbullying, passwords, malware, social media, and more. The SOS activities are open to anyone to explore. To participate in the testing and national competition, teachers must register their eligible classes. The website is available in both English and Spanish: https://www.fbi.gov/about/community-outreach/safe-online-surfing-sos-program.

The SOS Challenge is used widely by schools throughout the United States. During the 2021-2022 school year, 18,622 schools participated in the challenge, with 1,511,620 students participating from 99,360 different classrooms.

In the state of California, 1,019 schools participated in the SOS Challenge during the 2021-2022 school year, including 87,862 students from 5,210 different classrooms.

Schools in the San Francisco Bay Area won the monthly national SOS Challenge five times, more than any other region of the country. The winning schools in the Bay Area included: the Stratford School, Palo Alto Middle School in Palo Alto, California (which won the monthly competition twice); the Stratford School, Fremont Osgood Campus in Fremont, California; the Stratford School, Sunnyvale Raynor Middle School in Sunnyvale, California; and the Stratford School, San Jose Middle School in San Jose, California.

For Teachers: Registering Your Class for Safe Online Surfing Challenge

Teachers can register classes from any public, private, or home school that has at least five students and is located in the United States for the FBI-SOS Internet Challenge. A secure online system lets you manage your classes, automatically grades your students’ exams, and gives you the test scores. Each month during the school year, the classes with the top exam scores nationwide receive an FBI-SOS certificate and will be congratulated by local FBI personnel.

The SOS program’s curriculum meets state and federal Internet safety mandates.

FBI Warns of Cyberbullying

As the new school year begins, the FBI is encouraging parents, guardians, and teachers to speak to children about the threat of cyberbullying. In 2021, the FBI Internet Crime Center (IC3) received 14,919 reports of Internet crimes for victims under the age of 20. Of those, 2,167 of those complaints included the exploitation of children, including child abuse.

FBI San Francisco investigates complaints of cyberbullying when there is evidence that a violation of a federal law may have occurred. These cases of Internet-based harassment may include threats of violence, sexually explicit messaging or child sexual abuse material, sextortion, stalking, hate crimes, or doxing. However, all types of cyberbullying can be harmful to a child, even when it doesn’t rise to a federal criminal offense. The more digital platforms that a child uses, the more opportunities there are for being exposed to potential cyberbullying.

The FBI recommends the following tips to the public to protect children against cyberbullying:

  • Talk to your child about recognizing acts of cyberbullying. If children do encounter a bully, harassing language, or other disturbing content, you want them to feel like they can come to you for help.
  • Monitor their social media accounts. Make sure you have their account names and passwords so you can monitor the apps for disturbing content or harmful messaging.
  • Make sure your child understands the risks of sharing photos and personal information. Photos, videos, and personal information that were intended to be shared with only one other person can easily be posted publicly online.
  • Use the privacy settings on social media apps to the highest level. You can also teach your child to reject any “friend requests” from those they don't know and trust in a face-to-face relationship.
  • Discuss appropriate and respectful online behavior. Teach your kids to think about every message they send and consider whether it is dangerous, hurtful, or rude before hitting send.

If you think your child has been cyberbullied, consider the following steps:

  • Make sure your child is no longer exposed to the bully or the harmful material. Remove your child from harm and identify any support they may need as a result of the bullying.
  • Take screenshots and keep records of when and where the offensive material occurs. Most laws and policies note that bullying is a repeated behavior, so records help to document it.
  • Report the offensive behavior:
    • To the social media platform: The cyberbullying incident(s) may violate the company’s terms of use. The company may also be able to help you take down harassing material that has been posted publicly.
    • To their school: If a classmate is cyberbullying your child, you can report the behavior to their school.
    • To law enforcement: If you see any threats of violence or illegal material, report it to law enforcement. You can contact your local police department or contact the FBI at tips.fbi.gov or call FBI San Francisco at 415-553-7400.

In addition to monitoring your child’s use of social media apps, remember to monitor your child’s use of video games. Many gaming platforms include social networking and chatting functions, so children can be exposed to cyberbullying, exploitation, and offensive material while gaming. For more information, visit: https://www.fbi.gov/itsnotagame.

For more information on cyberbullying, visit: https://www.stopbullying.gov.

*For all media inquiries or interview requests on cyberbullying and/or the FBI’s Safe Online Surfing Internet Challenge, please contact media.sf@fbi.gov.*