Seminars to Warn of 'Sexting' and Other Internet Risks

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. - "Sexting," the controversial practice of sending sexually explicit messages or photos over cell phones, is one of the key topics that will be addressed at a Verizon-sponsored Internet safety summit here next week.

Area law enforcement officials, as well as students, parents and educators, will learn of the dangers of sexting and receive information on steps they can take to remain safe online. Other topics to be covered during the day-long summit at Greater New Bedford Technical High School on June 1 include: cyber predators, cyber gangs, cyber bullying, identity theft, leetspeak (online code words), mobile romance (dating services over cell phones) and MMORPGS (multiplayer online games).

The summit, hosted by  Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson, kicks off Cyber Safety Week, which consists of 25 Internet safety events to be held at schools in Massachusetts and Rhode Island from June 1 through June 5. Verizon and i-SAFE, the leader in online safety education, have teamed up to hold the events.

The sessions, funded by $100,000 in grants from the Verizon Foundation, will take place in New Bedford, Attleboro, Lynn, Lawrence, Leominster and Mansfield, Mass., and in Cranston and Pawtucket, R.I.  

Among the 7.6 million students receiving i-SAFE training nationally, more than 235,000 of them are in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The Cyber Safety Week events are expected to reach at least 75,000 more students in the two states.

The sessions for students are aimed at encouraging them to learn the steps they can take to remain safe online and then share that knowledge with their friends and families.  Sessions for parents raise awareness and help provide them with tools to protect their families online.

Law enforcement agencies attending the summit include the Massachusetts State Police, Massachusetts and Rhode Island Attorneys General, United States Attorney, Worcester County District Attorney, Massachusetts Juvenile Probation, and the Attleboro, Lakeville, Marion, North Attleboro, Mansfield and Swansea Police Departments and Bristol County Sheriff's Office.

Verizon and i-Safe have partnered to hold similar Internet safety programs in several states across the country.

Verizon is engaged in Internet safety on multiple fronts.  The company provides customers with an industry-leading slate of online cyber-security tools and educational programs that empower parents and children. Verizon also works closely with law enforcement to assist with investigations involving crimes against children, and partners with organizations like i-SAFE to deliver tools and information to various segments of the community. 

Donna Cupelo, Verizon New England region president, said: "We're exploring what it means to have a civil society in an online world. "By that, we mean an experience that allows for growth and innovation and applying these marvelous broadband technologies in ways that make our lives better; an experience that is also safe, secure and shuts out the swindlers and those who would use the Internet to inflict harm. 

"That's why we believe the first priority for providers is the personal safety of consumers.  Therefore, Verizon provides the best network tools available to ensure security and to inform people - especially parents - how to make safer choices to protect their families' privacy, guard against cybercrime and fight abuse."

Surveys conducted by i-SAFE of more than 20,000 Massachusetts students show:

  • Eighty-two percent have registered at a social-networking Web site such as MySpace.com and Facebook.com.

  • Eight percent report having been repeatedly pursued or contacted (stalked) by another against their wishes on the Internet.

  • Nine percent have met someone from the Internet in person.

Data collected by i-SAFE also show that 34 percent of Massachusetts students tell their parents "almost nothing" or "nothing" about their Internet-only friends. And 32 percent of fifth- through twelfth-graders said their parents would disapprove or punish them if they knew about all their Internet activities. To date, i-SAFE has helped educate more than 7.6 million students and more than 250,000 adults nationwide through Congressional funding and corporate partnerships.

As a result of this training, i-SAFE online surveys of Massachusetts students in grades 5-12 with previously unsafe online habits report:

  • Eighty-five percent say they are now equipped to see and stay away from dangerous things on the Internet.

  • Seventy-eight percent indicate they are now less likely to meet someone from the Internet face-to-face.

  • Eighty-two percent will no longer download music illegally from the Internet.

More information about Verizon's Internet safety initiatives can be found at www.verizonnationalmedia.com/familycenter/ and www.verizonfoundation.org/core/internet_safety.shtml

About i-SAFE Inc.
Founded in 1998 and active in all 50 states, i-SAFE Inc. is the leader in e-Safety education. i-SAFE is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate and empower students, parents, seniors, and community members to safely and responsibly take control of their Internet experiences. i-SAFE provides knowledge that will enable them to recognize and avoid dangerous, destructive, or unlawful online behavior, and to respond appropriately. This is accomplished through dynamic K through 12 curriculum and community-outreach programs to students, parents, law enforcement, and community leaders. i-SAFE is the only e-Safety foundation to combine these elements. i-SAFE Inc. is recognized by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charitable organization. www.i-SAFE.org

About the Verizon Foundation
The Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications, supports the advancement of literacy and K-12 education through its free educational Web site, Thinkfinity.org, and fosters awareness and prevention of domestic violence.  In 2008, the Verizon Foundation awarded more than $68 million in grants to nonprofit agencies in the U.S. and abroad.  It also matched the charitable donations of Verizon employees and retirees, resulting in an additional $26 million in combined contributions to nonprofits.  Through Verizon Volunteers, one of the nation's largest employee volunteer programs, Verizon employees and retirees have volunteered more than 3 million hours of community service since 2000. For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizonfoundation.org.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), headquartered in New York, is a global leader in delivering broadband and other wireless and wireline communications services to mass market, business, government and wholesale customers.  Verizon Wireless operates America's most reliable wireless network, serving more than 86 million customers nationwide.  Verizon's Wireline operations provide converged communications, information and entertainment services over the nation's most advanced fiber-optic network.  Wireline also includes Verizon Business, which delivers innovative and seamless business solutions to customers around the world.  A Dow 30 company, Verizon employs a diverse workforce of more than 237,000 and last year generated consolidated operating revenues of more than $97 billion.  For more information, visit www.verizon.com.