By Michael O’Brien
Special to the Voice
The Center for Cyber Safety and Education the charitable foundation of (ISC)2, partnered with the West Haven School District and Vancord, a CT-based technology services company to teach vital cyber safety lessons to over 2,000 children during a month-long event called Cyber Safety Fest.
Throughout December, the children received a lesson on safe social media posting with the award-winning Garfield’s Cyber Safety Adventures. In this fun, classroom-based lesson, Garfield, and friends help children understand the unintended consequences of posting too much information, plans, and privacy-revealing selfies on social media. In total, there were 91 lessons taught in the West Haven Public Schools by seven library media specialists throughout grades 2-6.
With offices in Milford, West Haven, and Glastonbury, Vancord, a TBNG, Inc. company, believes that good security is born out of sound operational practices and education. According to President, Michael Grande.
“Our company was founded in West Haven 17 years ago, and a good number of our staff, ownership, and families grew up in this city and attended West Haven schools. We are proud of our connections to this community and in our role as the district’s technology service provider,” he said. “As a cybersecurity-focused company, we are equally grateful to partner with the center for Cyber Safety and Education and the West Haven Public Schools to educate children about online risks and build a foundation through education to help students learn how to interact safely online.”
Vancord VP of Security Services, Jason Pufahl noted the need for such instruction.
“Schools everywhere are adopting online education and expecting students to engage in virtual communities as part of their school experience. It is now more important than ever that we establish positive habits through education and maximize the learning opportunities these new teaching modalities can provide. TBNG and Vancord are committed to help educate our young learners now, to prepare them to become responsible, and safe, digital citizens in the future,” he said.
Colette Bennett, the district’s Coordinator for Language Arts, Social Studies, and Library Media commented the lessons play into the curriculum outline.
“These lessons from the Center for Cyber Safety and Education are a great way for our library media specialists to meet the goals of our Global Citizenship units. I am sure that after delivering these lessons to multiple grades, our school library media specialists will be experts on helping students understand what should and should not be posted on social media,” she said.
“The experience I had with my 2nd-4th graders was very positive,” added Karen Dandelske, a library media specialist at Forest Elementary School. “Delivering the content on my new Promethean board with the annotation features, combined with the interactive video, was very engaging for students. They enjoyed the lesson and were excited to take home the Cybersafe Comic that mirrored the lesson to re-read it with their families.”
“This was a quality lesson with appropriate content on their level that could easily be differentiated,” she continued. “They loved the Garfield characters and really understood the information as it was delivered in a kid-friendly way. I am grateful to TBNG for providing this resource and I think that it was an excellent investment!”
The center has provided Garfield’s Cyber Safety Adventures to more than 32,000 children through cyber safety events since 2018 working with partners, sponsors, and schools. According to the center’s research, 40 percent of elementary-age children connected with an online stranger. Of that 40 percent, 30 percent texted, and 11 percent met a stranger in their own home, at the stranger’s home or a park, mall, or restaurant.
“Cyber Safety events are a part of our corporate social responsibility program we offer companies looking to make a positive impact within their communities,” said Tara Wisniewski, Executive Vice President of Advocacy, Global Markets, and Member Engagement for (ISC)2, the parent company of the Center for Cyber Safety and Education.
These events create a fun and kid-friendly learning environment while covering critical online safety and digital citizenship topics. The center’s award-winning digital safety education materials feature Garfield and his friends and make it fun for students to learn to be safe and responsible citizens online.