It is reassuring that during the pandemic crisis, fresh opportunities are emerging. People are communicating in new ways across the globe, putting so many more chances for connection at our fingertips. It is also the case that on the internet, an arena where opportunity abounds for our children to learn and grow, danger also lurks.

By necessity, kids of all ages are “distance learning,” firing up their digital devices to attend school, and expanding their screen time to connect with friends and family. This is marvelous in that it is even possible or practical. Yet, as children explore new worlds online and their hours in cyberspace expand, so does the opportunity for those who prey on them. Suspected child victimization tips to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the clearinghouse for such information in the United States, nearly doubled from 6.3 million in the first half of 2019 to 12 million through June of this year. Reports of online enticement similarly spiked during that timeframe, from 6,863 to 13,268.

Into this dark scenario enters some light: the SafetyNet® cybersafety training, now in its tenth year of keeping kids safe online, has also migrated to the virtual space. Until the pandemic, this program was only available by live presentation, limiting its reach. Now it is available online in collaboration with schools and community organizations.

October marked National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. November brought the launch of the virtual SafetyNet® presentation, delivering engaging and practical information on how to stay safe in cyberspace. Topics include hacking and scamming, phishing, identity theft, human-trafficking grooming, sextortion, cyberbullying, and internet predators, presented in age-appropriate sessions designed for groups of eight-year-olds to adults. This proactive program teaches kids the skills necessary to stay safe online. SafetyNet® also equips teachers and parents with the necessary information to safeguard young people in cyberspace, which is more important than ever due to the escalation of screen time brought on by the pandemic.

SafetyNet® is provided to the community through a public-private partnership between the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the San Diego Police Foundation with the help of generous donors like ESET North America headquartered in San Diego, and Motorola Solutions Foundation. More information is available at the SafetyNet® website: smartcyberchoices.org. Parents, teachers, school administrators, and local organizations are encouraged to reach out to the SafetyNet® Program Manager, Wendy Waddell, at (619) 232-2130 x 106 to schedule a presentation or make a donation to support keeping our kids safe online.

The San Diego Police Foundation is an independent 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization providing support for efforts that enhance police/community relations, crime prevention, and public safety through grant funding for specialized equipment, training, and cooperative community programs. SafetyNet: Smart Cyber Choices® is one of its signature programs. Founded in 1998, the San Diego Police Foundation seeks to create a safer San Diego on the street and online. To learn more about the San Diego Police Foundation and how to create Safety for All, visit www.sdpolicefoundation.org
or call (619) 232-2130.

Samantha Serpa, Learning and Development Manager, ESET North America
“I can think of no more compelling cause than protecting the most vulnerable among us, our children.”

The San Diego Police Foundation is grateful to our SafetyNet® sponsors providing major support to keep kids safe online.