Writing on a computer keyboard [Illustrative].
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Pupils across the country participate in “Internet Safety Week” within the education system, in an effort to raise awareness of Internet safety and cyberbullying.
A joint initiative of the Education Ministry, the parents’ association, government ministries, and the business and nonprofit sectors, the week aims to convey the message: “Take 30 seconds to think before sharing and distributing [information online].”
As part of the week, from February 7-12, pupils and high school students are taking part in discussions, workshops, lectures and special projects to raise awareness of the issue.
According to figures from a 2015 poll by the Central Bureau of Statistics, a quarter of all minors in Israel have been victims of cyberbullying and 10 percent reported being sexually harassed online.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan met with pupils at the Shimoni Elementary School in Givatayim on Monday for a discussion on cyberbullying.
In addition, the ministers, together with 7th grade pupils, attended a seminar that was led by the head of the police cyber unit, Ch.-Supt. Meir Hayoun.
In the discussion, Bennett warned the pupils that in the past an argument between friends would remain just between them, whereas today – in the age of the Internet – hundreds of other friends can be privy to negative words said about another person online, which can never be erased.
“Half a second of thinking can be the difference between hurting someone and holding back.
Because you cannot take back words. It is true for children, and it is true for us too – the adults,” he said.
Bennett added that sometimes distributing or sharing materials against a person’s will can even lead to criminal charges.
Erdan told the pupils: “You are smart kids and you must think really hard before you write or upload content online because otherwise it is no longer in your control, and strangers can take advantage of what you posted for the worse. You are not alone, and it is important to include your parents and consult with them and turn to the police when you feel that someone is threatening or endangering you.”
In addition, as part of the week, some 200 lawyers and 250 hi-tech volunteers will meet with students throughout the country to discuss the importance of Internet safety.
Furthermore, there will be some 30 lectures by education professionals, police cyber units, and the public defender’s office for students and parents alike.
The National Council for the Child announced it would hold a nationwide activity for some 700 classes in over 100 schools on Thursday. As part of the activity, counselors from the Council will hold a trivia game for pupils in an effort to increase awareness and the necessity for caution when surfing the Internet.
Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, head of the Council said, “The uniqueness of the Council’s activity is the young age of the target audience, with the belief that the sooner you give medicine for the blow, the better.”
Last month, the cabinet unanimously approved a Public Security Ministry initiative for a nationwide program to combat “cyberbullying” and crimes committed against minors online.
The program will include formation of a special unit within the Israel Police to deal with cybercrimes, as well as a national hotline that will operate 24/7 to handle complaints.
The unit would be separate from the Israel Police branch that deals with cybersecurity issues.
Another preventative unit would be formed to work on public awareness about cyberbullying and how to protect young people from sexual harassment, bullying and other forms of abuse online.
Ben Hartman contributed to this report.