The FBI’s Safe Online Surfing (SOS) Internet Challenge, which teaches students how to keep their information safe, avoid online predators, and identify cyberbullying, begins Thursday for the 2016-2017 school year.

Since 2012, teachers in grades 3-8 have signed up more than 870,000 students to participate in the national competition.

The website has one island per grade level where students play age-appropriate games to learn about Internet safety. After navigating through the islands, students take a quiz based on the topics they learned. The scores in each school are compiled and shown on a leaderboard for each month. The top schools at the end of each month receive a national FBI-SOS award.

The schools compete in three categories depending on how many students are participating. The categories are Starfish, which includes schools that have 5-50 participants; Stingray, which includes schools that have 51-100 participants; and Shark, which includes schools that have more than 100 participants.

“The information presented in the program has really resonated with our students,” said Bradley Evers, teacher and athletic director at Martin Luther School in Oshkosh, Wis.

Evers has used the FBI-SOS challenge with his seventh- and eighth-grade students. The students learned about copyright law and plagiarism along with Internet safety.

“According to my most recent contact with the FBI Public Affairs agent, we remain the only school in Wisconsin that has been recognized as a national winner,” Evers said. “I look forward to using the program at our school in the future.”

Chrissi MacGregor, teacher at North Gwinnet Middle School in Sugar Hill, Ga., has used the program with sixth-,  seventh-, and eighth-grade students.

“I was looking for an online, fun, informative source to help reinforce Internet safety vocabulary as well as have some real-life scenarios,” MacGregor said. “I think the kids just like something that is interactive.”

MacGregor said she likes the games that help to reinforce the vocabulary that the students learn and the quiz that students take at the end. However, she said the challenge could be updated to make it easier for teachers to see what each student comprehends.

“When I need to populate the results of the quiz I get the codes with scores, so then I have to match that up with the student. Not very friendly,” MacGregor said. “I would like a student login. Then when I want to produce a report I can have their data along with their names.”

Anyone can participate in the games on the FBI website, but only students can compete to win awards.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with how teachers and students are responding to the program and how participation is growing in such leaps and bounds,” said Scott McMillion, official for the FBI Criminal Investigative Division’s Violent Crimes Against Children Section. “FBI-SOS is helping to turn our nation’s young people into a more cyber-savvy generation and to protect them from online crime now and in the future.”

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Morgan Lynch
Morgan Lynch
Morgan Lynch is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Federal IT and K-12 Education.