Peer-minded posters to promote safe, friendly environments on the Internet
By Colette Linton
SARATOGA SPRINGS— The Internet is nearly an extension of the classroom. Curiosities fuel web searches, social interaction and creativity, but they don’t always lead to a place where children are safe.
Kat McLain, a fifth grader at Division Street Elementary School in Saratoga Springs, recently won the “Kids Safe Online” New York State Poster contest for creating a message to resonate with her peers about online safety.
Her winning poster depicts a cautionary scene of a familiar childhood story. Kat said that she used the widely known tale of “The Three Little Pigs”, combining her interest in reading, writing and drawing, to help relate the concepts of Internet safety.
“The requirements were to think of something good enough that could help kids with online safety,” Kat said. “I loved reading; so, I was thinking about all the things I’ve read and stuff like that. I thought of the three pigs and the big bad wolf. I thought: ‘well, that would be a good way to explain how to be safe online.’”
The contest is run through the Division of Homeland Security in New York State for grades kindergarten to 12 and promotes increasing awareness among students to encourage their peers to use the Internet safely and securely, according to the New York Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.
This is the second year that Library Media Specialist Sarah Seniw has included the poster contest as part of her curriculum.
She said that her task during this particular program is to explain to students that treating people online is the same as a face-to-face interaction.
“I feel that there’s a disconnect in a way,” Seniw said. “A lot of times kids think that interactions with other kids or other adults online somehow aren’t the same as one’s (interactions) that are in person. Although, they are the same.”
“What I try to drive home the most to this age group is that there are consequences for treating others poorly, but there can be consequences if you do the right thing,” she said. “When you treat other respectfully, you can create respectful environments where you’re stopping others from doing the wrong thing. The same way you could do that in your school environment.”
Kat’s poster is now being judged at the national level, and Kat and her family are anxiously waiting for the results. Statewide, her poster topped 287 other submissions and she received a certificate and an engraved glass plaque with an image of her poster through the glass.
“I’d just like to say that I’m very proud of you, Katie (Kat),” Kat’s mother, Leslie McLain, said. “Not only that you have a good angle on Internet safety, but I’m also proud of you for how you treat your friends and what a good ambassador you are here at the school.”