I was privileged to speak at a press conference today to announce the winners of the Battle for the Billboard 2009 Internet Safety Campaign orchestrated by Communities for Decency. High school students from around the state were challenged to create an original art piece and slogan which effectively illustrates the dangers of the Internet and/or safety tips on how to stay safe while online.
My Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force continues to lead the nation in arrests and convictions of Internet predators and child pornographers, but education remains a vital part of protecting children from harm. This poster contest was the brainchild of Communities for Decency President Cindy Moreno, and the winner's poster will be made into a billboard and placed on I-15 by Young Electric Sign Company.
I was pleased to recognize and honor First-place winner Phoebe Jarman from Diamond Fork High School in Spanish Fork and Second-place winner Josh Meyer from San Juan High School in Blanding. Their creativity and artistic talent will go a long way to educate their peers about Internet safety.
Phoebe's poster and slogan "Don't Fall for the Mouse Trap" brought to mind the assembly I have given to tens of thousands of Utah students pointing out that they can never be hurt unless they use their "mouse" to send out personal information or receive harmful solicitations or pornography. We speak of Internet "predators" and every child knows what a predator in the wild is. I remind them that even their family kitty cat is a predator. My sweet fluffy Sneakers, Jasper and Boots will often bring home a mouse. For a while they will "play" with the mouse, batting it around and tossing it in the air. One would think it is all fun and games, like the old cartoon Tom and Jerry, but in real life, our cats are deadly serious and in the end will kill the mouse.
Your child is a mouse to the Internet predator who will toy and play with your child, leading them into a false sense of security, manipulating their emotions, deceiving them into believing that they have a friend who understands their problems at home or at school, and promising friendship, understanding and validation. But the predator has but one true goal: luring your child into a false sense of security so they can ultimately hurt them.
Congratulations to Phoebe, Josh and Third-place winner Melinda Black. Your creativity and civic involvement might in fact save lives!
For great, age appropriate lessons, games and ideas on how to be safe on the Internet, visit http://www.netsmartz.org/ and http://www.webwisekids.org/.