The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Local Scene

February 8, 2014

Lost in CyberSpace: Palestine ISD cautions students to be safe in a digitized world


Scores of fourth-grade hands shot up around the Story Intermediate School cafeteria as cyber safety expert Matt Tibbetts of TBG Solutions posed questions to his young audience like, “How many here have a Facebook? What about Twitter? Or Instagram?”

Tibbetts had come as part of Palestine Independent School District's efforts to educate students on the importance of being careful, courteous and safe online. Since students live in a “digital world,” according to Principal Amanda Jackson, it is crucial for them to learn how to wield the powers of the internet properly.

“So we're just trying to give them the best tools for their benefit,” Jackson said. “It's about safety.”

The “BeSafe in CyberSpace” talk was heard Friday by fourth, fifth and sixth-grade students and covered the risks of cyberbullying and posting personal information online. Through colorful stories and multimedia displays, Tibbetts gave students tips on how to guard themselves across social networks and be, pardon the pun, smart on smart phones.

Tibbetts compared navigating the realm of CyberSpace to driving through icy conditions, where one must be careful to avoid slipping.

He cautioned against sharing personal information such as date of birth, hometown, home address and phone number, and then asked students if they thought networks like Facebook “are free.”

“You are their inventory. You are what they sell,” Tibbetts said. “To mass marketers, advertisers, political parties, (etc.) They're selling it as fast as they can.”

He further explained that posting updates such as “House to myself, going on vacation, not home right now, heading to...” are not a good idea, as it tells everyone who needs – and doesn't need – to know your whereabouts. He said students should “turn off location services” on social networking and phone applications, as this can tell “the exact location within three feet” of where, say, that selfie was snapped.

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