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					For SROs, Educators & Administrators                                 Fall 2009 Edition


THE JOURNAL OF

The Of ficial Publication of the National Association of School Resource Of ficers
Cell
Phone
Safety:
 How To Help Teens
 Make Smart Choices
By Detective Frank Dannahey, Rocky Hill (CT) Police Department




I
      remember doing parent Internet safety programs about            Getting the Project Off the Ground
      five years ago and making a prediction concerning cellular           In the summer of 2008, I was contacted by Esther Cook-
      phones. I told parents that I believed that the cell phone,     son; Director of Strategic Initiatives and Product Development
      through future technology, would begin to evolve as an          for Web Wise Kids. Esther had come to Web Wise Kids after
“online” communication device. It would be a device with high         serving as Director for the NetSmartz workshop initiative at
level messaging capabilities and full access to the Internet.         the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Ms.
Parents just didn’t seem to buy into this. A cell phone was for       Cookson said that Web Wise Kids had received funding for an
making phone calls; case closed.                                      online game addressing cellular phone safety issues.
     At about the same time Judi Westberg-Warren, founder of              Being that I was an Advisory Board member for Web Wise
Web Wise Kids, was attending an International Conference on           Kids, she asked if I would be interested in providing input into
Internet Safety in Taiwan.Web Wise Kids is a California based         the games development. Since I had been talking about this
non-profit website dedicated to Internet safety issues.               issue for several years, I accepted the invitation with the hope
    What Westberg-Warren found, was that the Asian countries          of bringing real-life situations to the game. Not to mention the
were experiencing some serious problems with teens and cell           fact that in my work capacity as an investigator, I had experi-
phones. Asian countries were all looking for solutions to things      enced many issues both safety and criminal that originated with
such as online bullying and what we now call "sexting" type of        cellular phone communication. I also knew that my colleagues
behaviors. Westberg-Warren decided that she wanted to                 around the country, including SROs and school administrators,
prevent this trend from impacting American children. She hoped        were seeing a rise in incidents that were cell phone based as
to educate kids before the issue became widespread in the             the means of communication and dissemination.
United States.                                                            Web Wise Kids had secured sponsors for the proposed
    Returning home,Westberg-Warren began looking for fund-            safety game from the Verizon Corporation as well as the Enter-
ing to create a positive, proactive and preventative way to           tainment Software Association Foundation. Will Interactive was
educate American children on this newly identified issue. Since       selected for the creation of the cell phone safety game. Will
it was not yet a big problem in the U.S., it was difficult to raise   Interactive is know for its use of “full motion interactive
awareness and funding to create a cellular safety program.            movies” for educational games.
     Web Wise Kids is known for its approach to Internet                    Esther Cookson was assigned to oversee the game devel-
Safety using computer simulation games. Its premier game              opment for Web Wise Kids. I attended a meeting with Ms.
“Missing” was being used to teach teens safe Internet prac-           Cookson at Will Interactive Headquarters in Maryland to
tices in a way that kids found to be fun. With the issue of           develop the concept of a cell phone safety game. Her experi-
“cell phones” becoming a new area of safety concerns, it was          ence at NetSmartz helped the development team at Will Inter-
only natural that Web Wise Kids would look to a game                  active in understanding the online safety issues that children and
approach to engage teens into developing safe practices.              teens face. We looked to provide the game developers with


22    SCHOOL SAFETY          Fall   l   2009
real-life cases; both those that come to the attention of law          teen. Most times they are in settings where no adult is doing any
enforcement and school officials as well as from numerous              monitoring of their cell phone usage and behavior. This makes the
news stories from around the country. I also considered the            management of the cell phone a difficult task for parents. Even
situations that SRO’s and administrators had told me about             more reason to put teens in the mode of making good decisions
from their personal experiences with students and cell phones.         for themselves. For school settings, the cell phone can lead to many
    The target age group for the game was middle school                types of abuse. Whether it’s cheating, bullying or inappropriate
students. The one good thing about middle school students is           photo/video usage, the SRO and administrators are getting their fair
that they are just starting their technology journey and their         share of cell phone issues needing attention during the school day.
safety practices can still be influenced. It was also important to
develop scenarios in the game that students could identify with.       Putting This Resource in Place
The game was designed to be played online with video scenar-                When it comes to the negative issues that cell phones are
ios shown to the students and the ability to change scenarios          bringing into teen culture, the resources are limited. Sure, there
based on decision-making choices.                                      are cell phone “safety tips” on most Internet safety websites.
                                                                       But what types of other proactive resources are available when
Issues to Address                                                      it comes to safety issues with teens and their cell phones.
     Web Wise Kids looked at problematic areas with cell               Unfortunately, there are not a lot.
phones that students often found themselves getting into trou-             Here is where the “It’s Your Call” cell phone safety games
ble with. The objective of the game is to have students use the        comes into play. We know that teens love their cell phones and
decision making process to understand consequences and apply           we know that teens love video games. The cell phone safety
that to responsible cell phone use. The issue of “sexting”             game blends the two onto a valuable educational resource that is
features predominantly in the cell phone game. The issues of           also fun. While we all would like to think that all of our educa-
cell phones used to bully and cheat on school work are also a          tional efforts have an element of “fun”, that’s not always possible.
main feature of the game. Each of these issues is featured in              For students, getting to play a video based game is fun.
video scenarios showing a student or students in a dilemma             Getting to play a video game with positive decision making
involving use of their cell phone. There is a correct and incor-       going on is educational. This really is a “win-win” situation both
rect path that can be taken. It’s up to the student playing the        for the students and SRO/school staff. We don’t always get that
game to decide which path to take the characters. If the student       opportunity. I think we all can agree that cell phone issues are
makes a correct decision, they are congratulated in that choice        here to stay and will change with future technology. Managing
and the video scenarios continue. If                                                                     the negative aspects of the cell
the student makes an incorrect                                                                           phone in the school environ-
choice, they are instructed as to why                                                                    ment is currently challenging.
it is an incorrect choice, offered the                                                                         So how do you get the “It’s
reasoning for the correct choice, and                                                                    Your Call” cell phone safety
placed back into the game.                                                                               game in your school? First step
      I had an opportunity to test the                                                                   is to go to webwisekids.org and
game with a group of middle school                                                                       click on the game logo. You can
students as it was being developed.                                                                      view a trailer clip showing you
One thing is clear, middle school                                                                        actual scenes from the game.
students like the “what happens                                                                              To get the game for your
next” aspect in the video scenarios                                                                      school, fill out the registration
of the game. I had groups of                                                                             request and someone from Web
students engaged in differences of                                                                       Wise Kids will be in contact
opinion as to what decision-making choice to make. Students            with you. There is a nominal licensing fee for use of the game
made some good points both pro and con when giving their               in the school setting. Remember,Web Wise Kids is a non-profit
reasons why a particular choice should be made. The differ-            organization and simulation games are costly to produce. A
ences in opinion and discussion of what choice to make can be          Facilitators Guide is available to assist the instructor through
an important part of learning to make decisions based on               the game and discussion questions are provided for each of the
consequences.                                                          video scenarios. Given the number of issues that student cell
     The students genuinely enjoyed playing the game and               phone activity accounts for in a school year, having a valuable
thought that the scenarios portrayed were things that they             resource such as this makes sense.
themselves have been confronted with. The game can be                        For Web Wise Kids Founder and President Judi Westberg-
played in a number of settings. They worked in small groups to         Warren, “It’s Your Call” has been a first of its kind tool to
decide what choices the group should make. The school tech-            address the consequences of misusing a new technology. This
nology staff can be an important resource in implementing the          new game will continue the mission of Web Wise Kids to use
game in your school. The game can also be played in a single           computer simulation games to empower students to make wise
classroom setting where students can be polled for a consensus         choices online; and in the case of cell phones, wise choices with
as to what decision-making choices should be made.                     a new technology.
      Web Wise Kids has long known that kids/teens are engaged
with video games. Past offerings from Web Wise Kids have shown
that students can have fun playing the various games while being       Det. Frank Dannahey is a 28-year member of the
                                                                       Rocky Hill (CT) Police Department. He has been assigned to
educated at the same time. The Web Wise Kids cell phone safety
                                                                       the Detective Division Youth Bureau for the past 18 years.
game was named “It’s Your Call”-- and for teens, it really is “their   He has received specialized training in the area of Child
call” when making choices concerning their cell phone. The cell        Computer Crimes and Exploitation and has worked in an
phone, being a mobile device, places a lot of responsibility on the    undercover capacity online to detect online child predators.



                                                                                                                          www.nasro.org   l   23

				
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