Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett appeared live via Internet and satellite
on Wednesday to announce the official kickoff of the Internet safety program, Operation Safe Surf. The Attorney General was seen in hundreds of schools across the state with one school from each region of the state serving as an official host site.
"Children are growing up in a digital age and being targeted by online predators at an alarming rate," Corbett said. "This program provides parents and schools with resources and tools to help kids learn how to protect themselves while still enjoying all of the benefits of the Internet."
As part of the special live statewide broadcast, Corbett explained the importance of Internet safety to more than 300 students and faculty at John Harris High School in Harrisburg and also interacted via satellite with students from across the state, encouraging everyone to join him as a member of the Safe Surf campaign.
Joining the Attorney General to launch Operation Safe Surf were agents from the Attorney General's Child Predator Unit and lawyers from the Pennsylvania and local bar associations, who were on hand at each official host site to answer students' questions.
Corbett told students, "We are fighting an enemy that we can't see. Today's predators are anonymous. They no longer need to stalk playgrounds. Thanks to the Internet, these criminals can hide behind a computer screen to lure you into their webs. They are lurking everywhere, in chat rooms, on MySpace, Yahoo, AOL, and you don't even realize who they are. You need to learn how to stay safe online."
Operation Safe Surf
is designed to educate kids, parents and schools about the importance of being safe online. It is divided into three learning groups: elementary school, middle and high school and parents/community groups, each with a unique curriculum specific to the interests and maturity levels of the students.
Corbett said that young people today have grown up with the Internet and have never known a world without it, making "surfing" a part of their life that they often take for granted. "As important as educating children about online dangers is, educating their parents, teachers and mentors is just as vital," Corbett said. "With 85% (13 million kids) of children using instant messaging and only 18% of adults 'IM-ing,' it's more important than ever for adults to be fully aware and committed to helping fight this type of crime against our children."
"I can't stress enough how important it is to lay a strong foundation of safe Internet use in our younger children," Corbett said. "If we can teach elementary students to be safe when they're 7 or 8-years old, chances are those habits will carry over to middle school and young adulthood."