Six employees at Rockdale County Public Schools recently attended a free cyber safety training course given by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Pictured, from left, are Zandra Hunter, Tresseler Byrd, Valerie Mitchell, Susan Chapman and Rachael Long. Not pictured is Scott Foster.
CONYERS — Several employees at Rockdale County Public Schools now know a little more about online safety, and they hope to help make students and the community more safe while using the Internet.
Recently six RCPS employees took part in a cyber safety training at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in Decatur. It was provided free of charge through the GBI's Internet Crimes Against Children task force grant, which so far has provided training to about 200 educators and law enforcement workers across the state and investigates such crimes in Georgia.
"This is very important," said Vickie Adams, forensic computer specialist at the GBI. "There's so much going on. It's not just predators — kids are facing cyber bullying, and they are putting so much personal information out there. They're not going to have any privacy. We just want them to be good cyber citizens and understand what's going on."
In the course, participants take an online class and an in-person class learning about pros and cons of the Internet, Internet safety and how to present information to students, parents, other educators and the community.
"We attended the training so we could be qualified to offer cyber safety presentations to students, parents, faculty and community organizations," said Rachael Long, one of the RCPS participants. "Cyber safety is an important issue, and with technology constantly changing, we need to educate children and adults on how to be protected when using the Internet, sending text messages, using social networking, etc."
The program was started by the GBI because the department has received so many request from schools, church groups and other community organizations that they can't fulfill the need. By training more individuals, more of the community can learn more about cyber safety, Adams said.
"Kids don't know (the safety issues), and a lot of adults don't know," she said.
So far, RCPS trainees have presented cyber bullying and safe texting programs to all ninth-graders at Rockdale County High School and plan to present it to more students and other groups in the future. They also are working with the PTA Council and the Parent Advisory Council to offer a cyber safety event for all parents, students and community members.
"We look forward to sharing this information with parents," Long said. "We would love to work with churches, clubs and any other organization that could benefit from this information."
By being trained, the members agree to deliver free presentations to interested groups in the community. Those who contact the GBI are put in contact with one of the trainees in the area to participate in the program. Locally, interested groups can call Darci Gilreath, STARS Project administrative assistant at RCPS, at 770-918-6174 to schedule a presentation.
By the end of the year, the GBI hopes to provide the same training to more educators through School Resource Officers and Regional Education Service Agencies so they can provide training to their schools.
"They can work it into everyday classrooms so the kids will get it all the time," Adams said. "We feel that by informing kids make them informed cyber citizens and make them not only safer but smarter."