Miami Herald: Google joins Miami lawmaker in teaching youth about safe ways to engage on the internet

By Alfonso Chardy

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Washington, D.C., February 10, 2017 | comments
“Social media and the internet are wonderful. But this new world of social media has some risks.”
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On Thursday, web giant Google joined Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, at W.R. Thomas Middle School to teach young students safe ways to use social media and websites.

Safe use of the web has become a central issue of social media use not only because of the Miami Gardens girl, but because her suicide was just one of several similar episodes of young people and adults using these systems to kill themselves publicly or spark chaos with so-called fake news items, identity theft and information hacking.

Curbelo, in remarks to the dozens of students gathered at the school auditorium, and in interviews afterward with reporters, said social media leaders should help build a culture of online security and safety.

“Social media and the internet are wonderful,” Curbelo told the students, all of whom raised their hands when the congressman asked if they had social media accounts. “But this new world of social media has some risks.”

When Curbelo asked what those risks were, none of the students mentioned suicides. One shouted “Fake news!,” another raised his hand and said “hackers,” and still another cited “stolen identity.”

Outside the auditorium, Curbelo was more explicit about the risks when talking to reporters.

“The goal is to create a culture of respect for human life, of responsibility on social media,’ said Curbelo in answering a specific question about Naika's suicide. “I think a lot of people become desensitized to issues on social media, maybe because they're not in direct contact with the person, maybe because they're hiding behind a user name and no one really knows who they are.”

Curbelo urged parents to be particularly vigilant when their children surf the web.

“When your child is on social media it's as if they were out somewhere interacting with people,” Curbelo warned. “The same concerns you would have with your child going to the mall, you should have when your child is logged on to Facebook or Twitter or any social media.”

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