As students return to hitting the books, the FBI is working to promote a different kind of learning through its SOS, or “Safe Online Surfing” program. The aim is to teach kids internet safety through an online game.
“With kids back in school, I think it’s definitely pertinent right now that they learn how to be a little bit safer when they’re researching or doing stuff online,” said Brooke Brennan, a spokesperson for the bureau’s Phoenix Office.
The game is intended for third to eighth graders, Brennan said, and delivers content that varies depending on the players’ grade.
The office had more than 7,000 tips regarding so-called ‘sextortion’ cases last year, a sharp increase from 2021.
Scammers target children online and coerce them into sending explicit photos, then demand money with threats to release them.
“We continue to see these cases cross our agents’ desks weekly, throughout all of Arizona,” Brennan said.
The program is open to anyone who visits the FBI website it’s on.
But beyond that, Brennan said: “Really it just comes down to talking to your kids.”
For example, she said, making sure your child knows what is and isn’t safe to share is a start to preventing victimization.