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Chappaqua Students Warned of Internet Scams

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. - Douglas G. Grafflin Elementary School had a simple message for its Internet-savvy students on Monday: be careful. Whether it's wiring money to a Nigerian prince or being duped into giving away passwords, the school is making sure its students don't fall victim to any familiar Internet scams.

"People will do anything to trick you, and you need to be smarter," said guest speaker Marj Monroe. "When you get an email like that, that’s trying to give you something for free, go find your parents."

Monroe, who travels the nation with ChildrenOnline.org, showed the students various screenshots of common ads from children's sites that try and trick users into giving information.

According to Monroe, the age children start using the Internet gets younger every year. The lowest grade she previously taught Internet safety to was fifth grade, but it has become common for schools to speak with third grade students on safety.

"Ten percent of the nation’s fourth graders are on Facebook. It’s unbelievable," Monroe said. "It’s important because they’re going to spend their lives doing this. And the younger we can do that, the better."

Monroe said the most at-risk population is 10th and 11th grade students, who average around 800 friends on Facebook. According to her company's research, the 10 percent of fourth grade students who have Facebook accounts average 69 friends.

"It’s actually really a great tool. The problem is it comes with a lot of risks, so the younger the kids, the more risk they have," Monroe said of Facebook. "And risk is correlated exactly to the number of friends they have."

Monroe began her presentation asking the third and fourth grade students to raise their hands if they had an email account, which nearly all students did.

"We wondered whether third grade was too young," said Principal Mike Kirsch of the assembly. "Clearly it wasn’t.”

Parent Marcy Shriber, who helped arrange the assembly, was surprised at how much of Monroe's presentation was already common knowledge to the students.

"It’s amazing how smart these kids. I was blown away," Shriber said. "They were so up to speed and they get it. They understand what it takes to make a safe password. I was shocked that they knew that in third grade."

According to Monroe, parents might be more in need of her lessons than the students she taught on Monday. She said parents often have less secure passwords than their children, commonly using pet and children's names.

As a parent of a 4-year-old and a second-grade student, Shriber admitted she would like to better understand how to put in safety controls and be more aware of what her children are doing on the Internet.

"If I set him up with something to do online and I turn my back, and I come back a minute later, he’s clicked to four other things," Shriber said of her 4-year-old son. "They click around and they see what visuals are appealing, and it’s scary what they can get to."

Parents were invited to the school at 7:30 p.m. on Monday for a similar Internet lesson of their own.

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