OGDEN -- Morgan School District is the first in this area to adopt a new cybersafety program to educate teachers and students about positive Internet guidelines and ethics.
The program is Generation Safe, and nicknamed iKeepSafe. Former Utah first lady Jaclyn Leavitt, who is championing the program, spoke Wednesday at Morgan Middle School, first to school administrators about program features, then to a seventh-grade class, to whom she taught a digital lesson plan about philanthropy.
"It's about the safe and healthy use of technology," Leavitt told administrators. "Our children need to have these computer skills. If they don't, it will hurt them with future employers. But we also need to protect them, detect inappropriate use of the Internet and intervene when there is a problem."
Leavitt said simply filtering Internet access at schools does not solve problems that can arise. For one thing, students can bring in their own wireless devices that are not filtered for objectionable content. Then there's the issue of children going home to an Internet that is not filtered. The goal of a Generation Safe education is to teach students to use safe, appropriate and ethical Internet practices wherever they may be.
Leavitt said that at a school in North Carolina, a 14-year-old student used a picture of his genitals as a screen saver, and his teacher didn't know how to talk to him about it until she got guidance through the iKeepSafe program. Another North Carolina teen personalized his screen saver with a photo of himself wearing gang colors and symbols and holding guns in each hand.
"Intervention at 14 is better than committing a federal crime at 17," Leavitt said.
In Utah, three teenage boys had sex with a teen girl, recorded it and sent it to all their friends. A Utah teen considered a prude by her male peers walked away from her computer, and several of the boys used it to send a photo of male genitals to the email address of the girl's father, intending to get her in trouble, Leavitt said. Another Utah girl was selling naked pictures of herself for $5 and complained to school counselors when the buyers shared images, cutting into her potential profits.
"That was a case where the counselor said, 'Back up. Do you see any problems with what you were doing?' " Leavitt said.
Teacher-student talks about Internet behavior and ethics could reduce the number of children who agree to meet with predators, who plagiarize school reports and who cyberbully, Leavitt said. It also could make students think twice before they post graphic pictures or hateful comments that could later cost them scholarships or job opportunities, she said.
The software program costs schools $500 to $1,000, depending on school size. Leavitt said alternative funding sources may be available for schools unable to pay the fee.
Rick Gaisford, educational technology specialist for the Utah State Office of Education, said Generation Safe goes beyond most other programs he has seen.
"We have great resources for teaching kids, parents and teachers about Internet safety," he said. "This is really a tool for administrators at the district and school level to come up with their own policies, intervention strategies and incident responses. It helps administrators determine the policies so it is clear whether they have been violated. Then you have steps to follow and consistency. Everyone is aware of the policies and what the consequences are."
The software includes incident flow charts, so offenses aren't simply forgotten. It also provides themed lessons on current events. For more information, visit http://generationsafe.ikeepsafe.org.
Leavitt said 20 of Utah's school districts have signed on with the Generation Safe program, and 21 have asked for more information.
"The Morgan District was one of the first to contact us," she said. "They are among the leaders."
Leavitt said Weber School District has expressed interest in some features of the program.
"Ogden refused," she said. "They said they didn't see the need."
Davis School District sent word it was "not interested at this time," Leavitt said. Box Elder School District reported it was happy with the program it has, she said.
Terry Allen, Morgan Middle School assistant principal, said the iKeepSafe system makes sense to him.
"Hopefully, we can prevent these problems from coming to the district," he said. "Students today sit next to each other and text rather than having a conversation. The technology is not going away.
"The skills and understanding young people can gain here, they can take home, and they can use it the rest of their lives."