Safe Web surfing stressed

The Fire Protection District has expanded Survival Kids lessons.
Thursday, July 19, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:59 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Don’t talk to strangers, don’t pick up a gun — and never post personal information on the Internet.

Internet safety tips will be incorporated into the Boone County Fire Protection District’s Survival Kids program, which has taught kids lessons about topics including fire and bicycle safety for 13 years.

Division Chief Gale Blomenkamp is rewriting the personal safety and stranger lesson to include child Internet safety.

The lesson, which focuses on what to do — or what not to do — around strangers will be revised because stranger danger had a different meaning in 1992 than it does in 2007, said Blomenkamp, who oversees the Survival Kids program.

“With computers and Internet access, we see personal safety for fourth-graders a little different than it was back in the ’90s, when you taught kids ‘don’t take candy from strangers’ type of things,” Blomenkamp said.

The fire district created the Survival Kids program in 1994 with eight lesson plans, which are taught on a monthly basis to fourth-grade students throughout the city. Each lesson plan is taught by the fire district’s volunteer firefighters, who travel to participating schools once a month throughout the school year.

Blomenkamp said he would contact the local law enforcement for suggestions on writing and teaching the course.

The task force investigates child enticement cases and teaches children and the public how to stay safe on the Internet.

Most fourth-graders have not been introduced to the expanded world of the Internet, said Tracy Perkins, a detective on the Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force. She said children tend to go through identity crises in sixth through eighth grades.

“We’ve all been at that age,” Perkins said. “They are going through a lot of emotional stuff. That’s when they get out there on MySpace and the Internet and try to find themselves.”

Detective Mike Lederle, who works for the task force, said parents with kids in the fifth through eighth grades should help their children stay safe on the Internet.

“The Internet is one of the greatest tools we’ve ever invented as far as research and knowledege, but it has a dark side,” Lederle said. “This is all the sexuality that is on it, the perversiveness on it and, of course, the predators.”

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