Updated:MARS, Pa. —
As kids head back to school, there is a sobering statistic for parents. The majority of students never tell their parents when something hurtful has happened to them online. That's according to the national initiative, "i-SAFE”.
Schools across Pennsylvania are required to teach online safety, but as Channel 11's Katherine Amenta found out, the Mars School District is taking it a step further.
“It's hard. People can create anything they want to online and that's kind of the scary part of it,” said instructor Emily Mehring.
That's why teachers at Mars Area Middle School say it's more important than ever to teach students the right way to be online. The district recently launched a "21st Century Digital Citizenship" class for every 7th and 8th grader.
“Actually after a couple of lessons, the students came up to us and a couple of them wanted to delete their Facebook page,” said Mehring.
Mehring says safety, cyber bulling and social networking are key topics and many students don't realize their digital footprint.
“I think students are shockingly surprised to realize that they delete an email, they delete a text, they delete a Facebook post, but it's really still out there,” said Mehring.
“Like anything, with great power, comes great responsibility,” said Principal Rich Cornell.
He says technology is second nature to his students, but they don't always recognize the danger lurking.
“The students have no fear and they do not have the background and knowledge of what dangers are out there,” said Cornell.
They teach students about protecting their private information, but also being very open with their parents and sharing their Facebook and Twitter accounts with them.
Students can also bring their cell phones into school, but they can only be used for educational purposes and off the district's network and policy. That network blocks sites like You Tube, Facebook and Twitter.
“Technology changes all the time and I'm sure next year there's going to be something else out there that we're going to have to prepare the kids for,” said instructor Patrick Scott.