By Sharon NarcisseThursday, April 19, 2007 9:01 AM EDT
Pitt-Johnstown unites with local schools for new Internet safety project
Police, school officials, and a special agent from the Office of the Attorney General gathered at the Ferndale Elementary school auditorium last week to launch a project aimed at helping kids stay safe while surfing the Internet.Project Click Safe, spearheaded by Ferndale Elementary School guidance counselor Eileen Zankey and Pitt-Johnstown outreach director Bob Knipple, will seek to provide awareness, education and resources for the community on issues relating to the safe use of technology.An estimated 90% of teens and 31% of kids ages eight through 18 currently use the Internet, and Zankey said the technology has the potential to put kids at risk.“Digital technology is here to stay, and at some point 100% of our children will experience the internet, cell phones, digital cameras, MP3 players, pod casting--whether it be for a research project in elementary or high school or simply to talk to a friend,” Zankey said to the audience last Wednesday.“These sites allow teens to create a profile page about themselves, which can include photos, videos and music and very personal information. However, the freedom they have to express themselves and interact with others can put them at risk for victimization.”The program will seek to inform parents and community members about the dangers associated with the technologies being used by kids and offer advice on minimizing the risks and what to do if a child has been put at risk.According to Pitt-Johnstown president Dr. Albert I. Ethridge, the program will also be an important resource for the community.“In development since October, 2006, Project Click Safe enables the university to extend our educational outreach and to help our community address a very important need, partnering with school districts, law enforcement, and the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General,” he said.“We have tremendous potential to create a safer environment for youth.”Greater Johnstown, Richland, Westmont and Windber school districts will partner with Ferndale and Pitt-Johnstown on the project’s steering committee, which will also include officials from Richland Township, the City of Johnstown, and the office of Attorney General Tom Corbett.Zankey said the project is believed to be the first of its kind in Pennsylvania, although special agent David Frattare from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office said the need for programs like Project Click Safe exists across the Commonwealth.“There is a need for this program everywhere. This has been building for years, and finally we are taking steps to combat this problem,” he said.Nineteen students representing the participating districts are currently involved in the program. The first student advisory meeting was held on April 12, and the first Project Click Safe Community forum will be held from 7 to 9 p.m., Tuesday, May 15, at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown Living/Learning Center.Attorney General Tom Corbett will be included with a panel of experts prepared to present important statistics and facts, followed by a question and answer session.For more information, contact the Pitt-Johnstown office of Marketing and Public Relations at 814-269-2080 or visit www.projectcclicksafe.com.