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Your Friends 4

(l-r) Jack Ashton, Leslee O'Kelly, Pat Mitchell, Heather Jones, Bruce Rafert,
Robyn Zimmerman, John Beckford, Nigel Robertson, Phillip Baldwin

Recognizing the pervasive threats to children posed by the internet and other digital communication devices, and the desire for parents, grandparents, teachers, and others to more fully understand these threats, Your Friends 4 sought to develop a program that would inform all those concerned with the safety of our children. Cyber threats are not unique to any one demographic. The abuses and dangers of this technology touch children from all walks of life. The diversity focus of this project is as broad as one can define diversity.

Your Friends 4 partnered with the Safe Kids Upstate program sponsored by the Children’s Hospital of the Greenville Health System, a nation-wide initiative which works with parents, teachers and children to inform and educate them about ways to keep children free from injury and threats to their personal safety. Protecting children from dangers found in the world of cyberspace is one component of the Safe Kids program. The internet safety initiative has been in high demand with only one staff member leading the effort. In addition, the presentation is currently being delivered by an adult to adult audiences. Our team felt that it was very important to involve the younger generation, who are extremely internet-savvy, to assist in this education of parents and teachers.

To this end, Your Friends 4 matched the Safe Kids program with student resources at Furman University’s Heller Service Corps. Founded in 1965, the HSC (named in honor of former Greenville Mayor Max Heller and his wife Trude), is one of Furman’s largest student organizations. Each year, more than 1800 students volunteer to serve more than 40 agencies. Within this organization we identified students with interests and cyber-skills to take the Safe Kids message to a larger community. A pilot program was conducted at Bethlehem Baptist Church on December 3, 2008 and the resources of two well established programs has now been established to better educate the community about the dangers of cyberspace.