Promoting Internet Safety Through Religious Communities

The Virginia Attorney General’s Office announced a new partnership Tuesday to promote Internet safety to parents and children through churches, synagogues and mosques across Virginia.

The latest venture by Virginia’s Computer Crime Section joins forces with groups Enough is Enough, The Family Foundation and the Virginia Interfaith Center to adopt an informative Internet safety program that equips the faith-based community to teach Internet safety.

“Through churches, synagogues and mosques, we can further empower parents to protect their children on the Internet,” says Attorney General Bill Mims. “This program highlights Internet dangers while providing practical solutions to help parents enact safety measures in the ever-challenging world of cyberspace.”

The reproduction and distribution of the kits was funded by the Attorney General’s Youth Internet Safety fund with contributions from AOL and News Corp. Enough is Enough produced the program in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice, AOL, MySpace and other partners.

They previously distributed a similar program through the Virginia Parent Teacher Association with funding from Verizon. The instructional, educational curriculum is not political, nor does it have religious connotations.

“Enough is Enough is proud to partner with the Virginia Attorney General’s office to deliver a landmark Internet safety program to the Virginia Family Foundation and the Virginia Interfaith Center,” says Donna Rice Hughes, president of Enough Is Enough and executive producer of the program. “Unfortunately, no child is immune to Internet dangers. The multi-media 101 Program educates, equips and empowers parents, educators and other caring adults to be the first line of defense to protect children from the Internet’s dark side and to ensure children have a safe and rewarding experience online.”

The Virginia Interfaith Center and the Family Foundation of Virginia will distribute the program to their network of faith-based partners across Virginia. The Attorney General’s Office also will work with the groups to offer training opportunities to leaders in the religious community.

“We are thrilled that we can help provide this important resource to pastors and people of faith across Virginia,” says Victoria Cobb, president of The Family Foundation. “It’s important that the church recognize its role in providing materials to parents in their congregations that will help them protect their kids online. The threats are very real. The program developed by Enough is Enough is comprehensive and gives parents all the instruction and tools they need to keep their families safe.”

Rev. Doug Smith, executive director of the Virginia Interfaith Center, says, “Every child in Virginia is worth protecting from online predators. While the Internet is a tremendous source of information and community building and a tool not to be feared, there are instances when predators seek to use the web to fulfill their own sick perversions. The Virginia Interfaith Center is committed to ensuring parents and community leaders have the tools needed to ensure only the best of the web is being experienced by young minds.”

Enough is Enough is a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization focused on Internet safety for children and families. The Family Foundation of Virginia is a public policy organization focused on strengthening families through research and education. The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that pursues social justice through legislative policies that promote human dignity.

The program, entitled “Internet Safety 101: Empowering Parents,” marks a continuation of efforts from the nationally acclaimed Virginia Youth Internet Safety Task Force, convened by then-Attorney General Bob McDonnell in 2006, to identify educational programs effectively educating parents and children on the dangers of the Internet.

The partnership is the latest in a series of Internet safety initiatives from the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, including: Internet safety presentations entitled “SafetyNet” given to middle and high schools across Virginia; the “Faux Paws” Internet safety program given to elementary schools and distributed through Boys & Girls Clubs across Virginia; Internet safety programming targeting parents previously available “On Demand” through Comcast cable; and legislative enactments designed to strengthen Internet safety laws.