Safe Online Surfing
New Cyber Safety Website for Teachers, Students
The FBI SOS site highlights cyber security through games, videos, and other interactive features.
With school back in session, one topic that’s on many class curriculums around the nation is cyber safety. After all, it’s a hyper-connected world—with texting, social networking, e-mail, online gaming, chat, music downloading, web surfing, and other forms of wired and wireless communication now a regular part of children’s lives.
The FBI has a new program that can help. Today, as part of its longstanding crime prevention and public outreach efforts, the FBI is announcing a free web-based initiative designed to help teachers educate students about cyber safety.
It’s called the FBI-SOS (Safe Online Surfing) Internet Challenge—and it was developed with the assistance of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and with the input of teachers and schools.
FBI-SOS is available through a newly revamped website at https://sos.fbi.gov. The site features six grade-specific “islands”—for third- through eighth-grade students—highlighting various aspects of cyber security through games, videos, and other interactive features. Each island has either seven or eight areas to explore—with a specific cyber safety lesson—and its own central character and visual theme. For example, fourth grade features Ice Island, complete with falling snow and penguins.
To encourage participation and enhance learning, FBI-SOS includes both testing for students and competition among schools. Each grade level has its own exam, which can only be taken after teachers have signed up their respective classes and all activities on the island have been completed by each student. And once all the exams for a class are graded (done electronically by the FBI), schools appear on a leader board in three categories based on the number of total participants. During each rating period, top-scoring schools in each category nationwide are awarded an FBI-SOS trophy and, when possible, receive a visit from a local FBI agent. All public, private, and home schools are eligible to participate.
For teachers and schools, FBI-SOS provides virtually everything needed to teach good cyber citizenship:
- A free, ready-made curriculum that meets state and federal Internet safety mandates (see sidebar for topics covered);
- Age-appropriate content for each of the six grade levels;
- A printable teacher’s guide that spells out how teachers can sign up their classes and use the site; and
- Detailed rules and instructions for students.
Can anyone visit the website? Absolutely. Kids of all ages—and even adults—can explore the site, play the games, watch the videos, and learn all about cyber safety. However, the exam can only be taken by third- to eighth-grade students whose classes have been registered by their teachers.
An important note: the FBI is not collecting student names, ages, or other identifying information through the website. Students are identified only by number when taking the exams; their teachers alone know which number matches which student. And teachers only need to provide their name, school, and e-mail address when signing up. The e-mail address is needed to verify the teacher’s identity for registration purposes.
“FBI-SOS is a fun, free, and effective way to teach kids how to use the Internet safely and responsibly,” says Scott McMillion, head of the unit that manages the program in the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “We encourage teachers to check out the site and sign up their classes during the school year.”
Visit the site at https://sos.fbi.gov.