News Release

Southeastern nursing students encourage "safe surfing"

Contact: Rene Abadie


     HAMMOND – Senior nursing students at Southeastern Louisiana University have developed an Internet safety program for children who risk falling victim to online predators.
     The program is designed to inform children about the dangers and consequences of talking to strangers and sharing personal information on social networking sites and other areas of the Internet.
     “Our goals are to bring awareness to teens and help them make the right choices,” says Erin Gauthier, one of the nursing students who worked on the project. “We did not want to tell teens not to use the Internet or social networking sites but to be safe about it. Their question should be, ‘How can you know someone you’ve never met face-to-face?’”
     The students selected the topic as their Capstone project, said nursing instructor Terry Compton. All nursing students at Southeastern are required to conduct a community outreach research project as part of their coursework.
     “The students took an active role in collaborating with the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office to develop this program,” said Compton. “They wanted their work to be enduring, so they developed a facilitator’s guide so that teachers, counselors and other school staff can present the program on Internet safety.”
     Gauthier and classmate Laurelee Woolfolk presented a PowerPoint presentation recently to the eighth-grade class at Ponchatoula Junior High. The presentation included information demonstrating the dangers of talking to strangers and giving out private information online.
     “We hope the kids realize the seriousness of online predators and the possible consequences,” said Gauthier. “We conducted a pre-survey, and about 20 percent of eighth-graders said they met personally someone they met online.”
     Following the presentation, most responded in a post-survey that they would not do that again and instead would notify a trusted adult.
     The program, entitled “Safe Surfing,” had students complete a card with two true facts, and one false fact about themselves. The rest of the group had to guess which one “fact” was false. Most students did not know this information about their own classmates.
     “So if you don’t know information about someone who sits next to you in class, how can you know information about people online you have never met,” the student nurses asked.
     The more serious aspects of the presentation focused on a tactic used by online predators called “grooming,” a process used to relate to a young teen and create a false sense of connectedness so that they may eventually be lured away from their homes. This was showcased with a video of a girl who had run away with a man who had used this tactic to get her away from her family. They were caught, and the man was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
     Among the tips the student nurses presented were:
-- Keep personal information private.
-- Avoid risky conversations.
-- Don’t let anyone turn you against your family.
-- Never meet in person with anyone you met online;
-- Avoid spending too much time online.
     For parents, the nursing students strongly recommend they talk to their children about Internet safety and how it can be potentially harmful. Parents should instruct their children on precautions they can take when posting pictures and sharing information about their personal lives. 
     “Once something is online, it can be used by anyone who sees it,” Gauthier said.
Gauthier said she thought all Louisiana students would benefit from the program. Plans are in the works to offer it to other area schools.
     Other Southeastern nursing students who participated in the project were Danielle Clary, Danielle Lemoine, Cheryl Bolotte, Jessica Carmouche, Katherine Allen and Sharon Toepfer.

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