WJU students present to local junior high students.

Wheeling, WV,
11:00 AM

Cyber-Mentoring Helps Keep Kids Safe Online

Nine things your child should know to boost online safety

You see a glow coming from your teen’s bedroom... Do you know what website they are visiting?

Your 5th-grader won’t put down his smartphone... Do you know what videos they are watching?

Kids are increasingly living their lives online. They see it as a fun way to connect with friends and be entertained. They often don’t realize online risks, increasing concerns over safety.

To identify and address online child safety issues, Wheeling Jesuit University (WJU) established the Coalition for Youth Safety (CYS), in August 2013.

CYS educates WJU criminal justice students to become child and community safety advocates. Developed by WJU Social Science professor Dr. Larry Driscoll, the program receives grant funding from State Farm.

Local law enforcement and safety experts guest lecture. Students attend classes and conduct research. They become "mini-experts" in one of three areas: internet safety, bullying and social media. They present findings to middle school students in Ohio, Brooke and Marshall Counties in West Virginia.

“Younger students need this important information, because they are more vulnerable,” Dr. Driscoll explains. “We discovered it’s not uncommon for first and second grade students to have access to mobile devices. It is crucial we start educating early so they know the dangers of cyber bullying and using the internet.”

Peer Instruction Most Effective Use the internet as a tool and don't be fool!

Research shows elementary and middle school students relate better to younger adults – someone who speaks the same language.

“The closer in age mentors are to the students they’re mentoring, the better the results. That is why it was so important to make peer interaction a component of the CYS program,” Dr. Driscoll shared.

“Being a mentor in this program has been doubly rewarding,” said WJU student Kaitlyn Conner. “This program has allowed me to vastly improve my public speaking and communication skills. As a result of the different school visits, I am considering teaching as a possible career. I enjoy being able to help the community and interacting with the kids.”

Driscoll and his students are gathering and analyzing results from the program. They expect to see social media usage trending upward for younger and younger students. They also hope to see a downward trend in online abuse, bullying and talking to strangers.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” Dr. Driscoll says. “There is a definite need for this program. The elementary and middle school teachers continue to ask when we are coming back.”

Here are nine things CYS promotes. Parents are encouraged to reinforce this information to boost online safety:‚Äč

9 online safety reminders. establish boundries, disable location sharing, check age restrictions, expose real-world dangers, explain the true impact of online actions, stay current, discuss and check privacy settings, hide phone numbers on public profiles, software filters