Johnson teaches Internet safety at FD Middle School

Fort Dodge Police Officer Joelyn Johnson is teaching Fort Dodge Middle School students how to be safe on the Internet.

For more than five years, Johnson has been instructing fifth- and sixth-graders during their health classes.

“The topic we touch base with the fifth and sixth graders on is your basic Internet safety and some of the other dangers they’re going to be encountering online, including Internet predators,” Johnson said. “Some of the topics we’ll also cover are sexting and cyber bullying, which is coming to be more a prevalent offense.”

This year, Johnson is also teaching the middle school’s seventh and eighth grades, addressing with them topics including predators and the dangers of technology.

“Most of them have smart phones or iPads, something that’s Wi-Fi capable, and they can gain access to the Internet anytime or anywhere,” she said. “Along with that, most of those smart devices also contain GPS coordinates that will track them as they take pictures or are using other applications.”

Johnson teaches students to take caution when posting anything online.

“It’s important that they’re aware, as they take these pictures or do whatever operations on their device, that if they’re posting it on the Internet, not just themselves and their friends will have access to view that, but any other predator that can potentially be targeting them,” she said.

There are ways adults can help their children to be safe, as well.

“Monitoring the activities that the kids are doing on the Internet, or even having the passwords for their social networking accounts, is a great way they can keep track and make sure there aren’t people who aren’t friends in person with the children, just making sure they’re not making friends with stranger,” Johnson said.

The middle school students respond well to the instruction, according to Johnson.

“The fifth- and sixth-graders, we have a very interactive presentation and normally they ask questions,” she said. “I get a lot of positive feedback from the students, and I feel like they get a lot of useful information.”

An added benefit, the students become more familiar with the police officer’s presence.

“I’ve had a lot of kids who are also becoming more and more familiar with me, seeing my face in school,” Johnson said. “It’s not quite so alarming to them, I believe, to know that Officer Johnson is coming into the school to speak with them.”

The dangers Johnson educates students about are very real.

“They are a part of our everyday society,” she said. “As a matter of fact, you don’t realize it is something that can happen to you until it does strike so close to home, such as the situation that happened in Dayton. It gets that close to where it gets all the surrounding communities involved, because we’re trying to reach out and assist. That’s when it has the impact and let’s you know it’s out there.”